Wednesday, December 05, 2001

Ohio budget agreement is reached

In works: multistate lottery

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Ohio would join a multistate lottery and local governments would not lose state funding, under an agreement reached Tuesday to balance the state budget, House Speaker Larry Householder said.

        Mr. Householder, a Glenford Republican, said he had a bare majority of “two to three” votes to pass the budget plan, needed to patch a $1.5 billion budget deficit.

        The plan includes a commission to study gambling, which helped persuade conservative Republicans with concerns about the multistate lottery, Mr. Householder said.

        “That meant enough for them that they felt they were doing the responsible thing,” he said.

        The plan would balance the budget through a combination of cuts to state agencies, tapping the state's rainy-day fund, borrowing from Ohio's share of the national settlement with major tobacco companies, and requiring more financial institutions that lend money to pay taxes.

        It also would raise money by requiring Ohioans who lease vehicles or boats or business equipment to pay tax on the lease immediately, rather than over the life of the lease.

        Democrats, in the minority in the House and Senate, oppose the plan, saying it would use too much tobacco money, meant for anti-smoking efforts, and does not adequately fund higher education.

        Gov. Bob Taft praised the plan, calling it responsible and fair, and said he would sign the bill that incorporates the compromise.

        The budget committee was preparing to meet again for a final vote Tuesday night after a day of closed-door negotiations among Republican lawmakers. The full House and Senate are to vote on the bill later this week.

        The deal would give Mr. Taft the authority to allow Ohio to join a multistate lottery such as Powerball or the Big Game.

        Last week, Senate President Richard Finan was pushing a 6 percent cut in money provided to counties, cities, villages, townships, libraries and other units of local government, generally for their operating budgets.

        He said he agreed to eliminate that cut at the request of Mr. Householder.


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