COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio lawmakers were trying Friday to resolve major policy differences to get a
state budget deal completed before a Tuesday deadline.
House and Senate negotiators had scheduled work over the weekend as they tried to close a $3.2 billion
gap in the two-year, $54 billion spending plan in time to vote on it early next week. Yet Saturday and
Sunday meetings of the compromise-forging conference committee appeared in flux Friday as final deals on
several big items remained elusive.
It was still unclear, for example, whether the Republican-controlled Senate would give legislative
approval to Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland’s plan to put lottery-run slot machines at Ohio’s seven
racetracks to shave $933 million from the looming deficit.
Senate President Bill Harris, an Ashland Republican, has insisted that Strickland has the executive
authority without legislative approval to add slots-like video lottery terminals to the Ohio Lottery’s
menu of games. Strickland authorized adding the bingo-like game Keno in such a manner last year.
Public debate centered on whether Strickland has the legal authority to add the game, but the unspoken
controversy involved who would ultimately take the political heat for expanding gambling in the
traditionally anti-gambling state.
Ohio voters have rejected ballot issues legalizing casinos or slots four times in the past 20 years.
With hundreds of smaller budget items already resolved, the teams of Strickland, Harris and House Speaker
Armond Budish, a Beachwood Democrat, were still undecided on a compromise involving how Strickland’s
education overhaul treats charter schools.
After the House rewrote Strickland’s plan to include more money for charters, the Senate version scrapped
nearly all of it in favor of a formula that funnels as much state money per student to charter students
as students at traditional public schools.
Strickland had sought to tie funding for charter schools to proven academic performance.
Negotiators also remained at odds late in the day over how much state money should go to nursing homes.
If lawmakers miss the deadline, they can pass an interim budget to fund state government temporarily
until they work out a deal.