COLUMBUS (AP) — A wide-ranging midterm budget bill cleared the Ohio Senate on Wednesday after lawmakers removed a contentious pilot program that would have tied welfare benefits to clean drug tests.
Democratic state Sen. Shirley Smith of Cleveland said the last-minute decision by the Senate Finance Committee earlier in the day helped decide her vote in favor of the budget bill. She said it showed her majority Republicans were willing to compromise.
In a 25-8 vote, the Senate passed the measure with many of Gov. John Kasich’s government-shrinking proposals intact, including shared service options for local governments and altered or eliminated roles for various government boards and commissions.
Kasich took the rare step of proposing the measure outside of Ohio’s traditional two-year budget cycle.
Democratic state Sen. Mike Skindell was among its critics, blasting such initiatives as undermining public sector unions and consolidating power to the governor’s Cabinet.
“This represents an incredible consolidation of unbridled power into these agency heads, and it should be a concern for the citizens of the state of Ohio,” he said.
Several of Skindell’s fellow Democrats, including Smith, spoke favorably of the bill, which delivered an additional $42 million to the Clean Ohio fund that preserves farmland and green spaces and another $350,000 to a Lake Erie protection program.
By JULIE CARR SMYTH