Ohio House approves Kasich's midterm budget bill

JULIE CARR SMYTH AP Statehouse Correspondent Published:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Ohio representatives from both political parties criticized Republican Gov. John Kasich on Wednesday for saddling them with a midterm budget bill heavily loaded with disparate proposals they called unsuited to a non-budget year.

Rep. Terry Boose, a Norwalk Republican, said Kasich's practice of introducing voluminous off-year budgets in a state accustomed to a two-year cycle has effectively allowed him to take control of the state's legislative branch.

The 1,620-page document Kasich introduced earlier this year was the second of its kind since he took office in 2011, mirroring the annual federal budgets he oversaw as U.S. House finance chairman in the 1990s. The House split the legislation into 14 separate bills, nine of which cleared the House Wednesday.

House Democrats were particularly upset over a last-minute amendment to the largest of the bills that changed campaign finance law. The bill lifts a disclosure requirement applied to independent political expenditures and relaxes political-giving restrictions on state contractors.

Rep. Dan Ramos, a Lorain Democrat, said the Kasich midterm budget bills are packed with such Christmas tree-like ornaments. He called the bill "a moral document" that strays far from the purpose of a traditional budget correction bill.

"We don't have to have a second budget, ladies and gentlemen," Ramos said. "We're not working with a governor; we're working for a governor."

House Finance Chairman Ron Amstutz, a Wooster Republican, said his committee had actually trimmed, not lengthened, Kasich's original proposals through the committee process. He said the main bill, containing most of the appropriations, contained policy changes that would have an important impact on the state.

"(This bill) is a list of things that, when you go through them, are focused on helping our communities lift more of our struggling Ohioans to a better place, to help them lift themselves to a better place," he said.

A spokesman for Kasich said that the administration is going to "keep pushing for the reforms necessary to help lift Ohioans."

"If there are legislators who think that the state is fixed and there's nothing more to do, then they should stay at home, sit on their couches and not show up for work. We disagree," said spokesman Rob Nichols.

Among its provisions, the legislation includes more money to family and children services and bolsters efforts to combat drug abuse.

Other bills before the House addressed taxes, workers' compensation, higher education, workforce training and other issues.

An amendment to one bill that would have allowed chiropractors to return young athletes to play after they suffer concussions was removed on the floor Wednesday. Another last-minute amendment had been removed Tuesday that would have stripped 10 percent of local government funding from counties that violate a state law on distributing absentee ballots. The proposal faced a flood of criticism -- including from Kasich, Secretary of State Jon Husted and Kasich's presumptive Democratic rival in the November election, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald.

The campaign finance change questioned by Democrats eliminated a rule governing disclosure of campaign spending by labor organizations, nonprofits and corporations -- a regulation added under Husted's predecessor, Jennifer Brunner.

Brunner added the rule following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case in 2010 that lifted restrictions on independent spending by corporations and labor unions. House Republicans said the playing field has since been leveled and the rule is no longer necessary.