December 18, 2014

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Ohio lawmakers agree to pass interim budget

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Lawmakers trying to balance the state’s $54 billion budget have agreed to pass an interim budget, giving them another week to work out an impasse over a proposal to legalize slot machines at seven horse racetracks.

Senate Finance Chairman John Carey will offer the measure as an amendment during a Monday floor session, marking the first time since 1991 that such a move was needed. The House is expected to concur on the extension Tuesday, said spokesman Keary McCarthy.

The interim budget would run through July 7, giving legislators another week to balance the two-year spending plan that was to start Wednesday. It will fund state programs at 70 percent of the current level, and authorize Gov. Ted Strickland to tap the state’s rainy day fund to balance in the 2009 budget that ends Tuesday.

The Republican-led Senate and Democrat-led House are at an impasse over how to fill a $3.2 billion hole in the $54 billion budget.

The voluminous and complicated spending blueprint includes a dramatic overhaul of Ohio’s education system, interweaves billions in federal stimulus dollars, and grapples with a gaping budget hole left by declining revenue.

Yet both chambers said Monday that they are close to an agreement.

In a statement, Senate President Bill Harris praised the professionalism House and Senate negotiators have demonstrated, saying the interim budget was needed to allow adequate time “to mechanically get the bill ready for the floor.”

McCarthy said the House, too, was pleased that so many aspects of the budget — considered the singlemost important policy document of the session — have been resolved.