It looks like the Senate GOP leadership is getting serious about getting the budget resolved.
The Columbus Dispatch reports that the Senate GOP is offering a new plan that would require the unanimous support of the Senate Democratic caucus.
The new deal drops, apparently, the controversial proposal of selling off drilling rates to Ohio’s state parks, repealing the recently created legislative goal of universal, all-day kindergarten, nor does it include additional funding for parochial schools.
The bill does add two new provisions from the House’s “clean” bill. One is a controversial construction reform proposal that was actually created by a study group by the Strickland Administration that would be the first meaningful reform of Ohio’s public construction project laws in a generation. The proposal was product of complex negotiations with the various interested parties. The unions which rely on those projects wanted to get the Democratic controlled House to tinker with the proposal taking away some of what they felt they “lost” in those negotiations. As a result, a change that just about everyone conceptually agrees needs to be done in some form in order to reduce wasteful spending and inefficiencies in public construction products is mired in a political turf war.
The other proposal is a sentencing reform proposal that would permit the reduction of sentences for non-violent offenders.
Republicans, most of whom have labeled Strickland’s plan as an income tax increase, want to be able to point to areas in the bill where they tried to save some money over the long-term. The state is facing a potential multibillion-dollar deficit when the next two-year budget starts up in July 2011.
Early this year, Strickland supported money-saving state construction changes and included prison sentencing reforms in his proposed two-year budget. The House pulled the sentencing proposal out of the two-year budget, and the Senate did not reinsert it. Construction reform also has been stalled in the House.
While the Dispatch notes that Speaker Buddish is making noise that he wants a “clean” bill that doesn’t include these provisions, both provisions arguably are structural changes that would save the State money and aren’t clearly designed to be poison pills like the prior GOP Senate proposal was. As the Dispatch notes, both were also components of the budget that Strickland introduced but were stripped by the Democratically-controlled House.
All eyes are now on the Senate Democratic caucus. However, I would expect that they will accept this proposal leaving it to the House as to whether they wish to scuddle a politically necessary budget deal over something as arcane as public construction contract law reform. Unless the Dispatch‘s report is inaccurate and misses hidden poison pills (which, the initial Dispatch reports of the Senate GOP’s last offer failed to notice), it looks like this is a good-faith effort to reach a bipartisan compromise.
It’s just a sad commentary that only five Senate GOPers can support it.