Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Operating Budget Voted out of Senate Finance Committee

The Senate Finance Committee voted out HB 1, Operating Budget legislation, along party lines today (9-4). The Senate version of the $54 billion appropriation bill scrapped the House version and even cut into provisions Governor Strickland saw as priorities in his executive budget.

Higher Education, for the most part, stayed away from the policy discussion while K-12, and state park oil drilling stole the attention of the committee members. AICUO member-institutions saw no additional changes to provisions changed in the initial Senate sub bill. Funding levels for independent college students did see a decrease from the House-passed version after the Senate's changes but will have equal-status inclusion in the Choose Ohio First Program.

The Tuition Trust Authority saw some tweeks and changes to its governance model. Vice Chairman, Senator Mark Wagoner (R - Toledo) explained the provision, that's included within the omnibus amendment, that the Ohio Board of Regents will house the Tuition Trust Authority and the Senate's version will provide a hybrid version of board oversight. The Chancellor, Eric Fingerhut, and the Board of Regents will obtain more cost controls while maintaining OTTA sovereignty.

The House of Representatives is unlikely to confer on Senate changes sending the bill onto conference committee. That process will start after the bill passes the full Senate, expected to happen tomorrow afternoon in what could be a very long session. The conference committee will have a difficult task, there is still at least $250 million at risk of being cut as a result of the dreary state revenue numbers.

AICUO staff will continue to monitor the legislation and keep members updated.

--Dustin A. Holfinger