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Senate passes $62 billion budget for Ohio

The Ohio Senate approved along party lines on Thursday a $62 billion state budget bill that proposes major changes to Ohio’s school funding method and a $1.4 billion tax cut for small businesses and investors.

Few changes were made during debate Thursday, but the Senate made hundreds of changes over the past few weeks to the bill approved by the House in April and first proposed by Gov. John Kasich. The bill passed the GOP-controlled Senate 23-10 after more than eight hours of discussion.

GOP senators praised the plan for allocating more money for public education — $717 million more over two years than current levels — and for a tax cut for business owners, independent contractors and investors that file individual tax returns. Democrats criticized both measures and tried to amend the bill to add more money to K-12 education and remove the tax cut.

Sen. Chris Widener, R-Springfield, said the Senate plan addresses many concerns of education advocates and issues of fairness and equity in the current funding formula.

“No school district will get less in the next two years than last year,” Widener said. “That’s a promise the governor made, the House made, and the Senate is making today.”

Senators retained a House-inserted provision moving Planned Parenthood and other family-planning only clinics to the end of the line for federal family planning dollars and another that prevents ambulatory surgical care centers that provide abortive services from having transfer agreements with publicly funded hospitals.

Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, said the amendments were not about denying access to women’s health care.

“This amendment is about the state of Ohio standing up and saying we are not going to spend our limited resources on an organization that advocates the destruction of human life,” Lehner said. “It is as simple as that and we will not apologize for protecting innocent human life.”

The bill now moves to the House, which will likely not approve the Senate’s changes and send the bill to a conference committee composed of members from both parties and both chambers before Kasich has an opportunity to veto parts.

Check back later for more about this story.

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