It’s Budget Season at the Ohio Statehouse!

Drafting and enacting the state biennial budget is no easy task. Every two years the governor releases budget recommendations and the General Assembly takes the first half of the year to consider the proposal and develop its own versions. By June 30, the General Assembly must have a budget to present to Governor DeWine for his signature. This article is going to break down the steps in the budget process. 


Step 1: The Governor’s Budget Proposal
The executive budget, commonly referred to as the “As Introduced” version of the budget, Governor DeWine’s budget proposal was presented to the General Assembly on January 31, 2023. Also called the “Bluebook”, this proposal is comprised of three sections which include budget recommendations, the tax expenditure report, and any additional highlights. Not until this proposal is introduced in the Ohio House does the proposal receive a bill number. This time around this is known as House Bill 33. Following in tradition, HB 33 is sponsored by the chair of the House Finance Committee, Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) and was introduced in the House on February 15, 2023. 

In addition to the materials released by the Governor’s office, the Legislative Service Commission (LSC) prepares what’s known as the “Redbooks”. The Redbooks describe the historical, current, and proposed funding for each state agency and details any policy proposal specific to that agency. Once the budget is complete, later in the year the LSC releases what’s called “Greenbooks”, each detailing the impact of the enacted budget on each agency. 

Step 2: House of Representatives Version

Beginning in the House Finance Committee, the legislative budget process starts as soon as the bill is introduced in the House. Throughout previous budget years, different portions of the budget bill are assigned to House Finance Subcommittees based on the topic area. For instance, the portion of the budget that deals with the budget for the Departments of Health, Job and Family Services, and Medicaid among others, is sent to the House Finance Subcommittee on Health and Human Services. While in these various subcommittees, the budget bill receives testimony from agency directors on the proposed budgets for each agency. Following agency director testimony, the subcommittee hears from proponents, opponents, and interested parties on the budget bill, very similar to the hearing and testimony process for all other bills going through the legislature. 

Once each subcommittee completes their respective hearings and testimony, the subcommittee prepares a report for the full House Finance Committee with recommendations for amendments to the budget bill. With those reports in hand, the finance committee formulates a new version of the bill, better known as the substitute bill. From there LSC works with the substitute bill to develop a comparison document, “comp doc” for short, that compares the “As Introduced” version of the bill to the substitute. Any subsequent version of the budget bill is then added to the comp doc to monitor the changes as they happen. 

The House Finance Committee then holds hearings on the substitute bill providing another opportunity for testimony from proponents, opponents, and interested parties. Once these hearings are complete, the finance committee incorporates any new amendments to the bill and is often done with an omnibus amendment which is many amendments collected together. After the inclusion of any amendments, the House Finance Committee votes on the bill and upon its passage out of committee, it will be sent to the full House of Representatives for a vote. With a favorable vote, the budget bill is passed on to the Senate. Typically, the House will have the budget bill from its introduction in February until about Mid-April. 

Step 3: Senate Version
Like in the House, the newly passed substitute budget bill begins in the Senate Finance Committee. In past budget years, the Senate President has opted to bypass the subcommittee process and instead have the full Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Senator Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls), hear testimony from the start. As of the time of this article, the budget bill has not yet been voted on in the House so how the Senate will chose to hear testimony this time around is yet to be seen. However, what we do know is that Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) has added two new standing Senate committees, one focused on Medicaid and the other on community revitalization. This may be an indication of Senate President Huffman’s intent to utilize these standing committees to serve as “subcommittees” dealing with subject matter specific to those committees. 

Just like the House version of the budget bill, the Senate will vote their version of the bill out of committee and vote on it in the full Senate. Upon its passage, the bill goes to the fourth step: conference committee. Typically, the Senate will be working on their version of the bill from the time they receive the House version in mid-April until about June. 

Step 4: Conference Committee 
No doubt, there will be differences between the House-passed and Senate-passed version of the budget bill. These differences will need to be worked out and to do so, a conference committee will be established. The conference committee is typically comprised of select members from the House and Senate Finances committees. Usually without additional public input, the conference committee develops a final version of the bill and votes on it. Once the committee passes the reconciled version of the budget bill, it goes back to both the House and the Senate to concur with the final changes. At this point, the House and Senate cannot make changes and must either adopt or reject what the committee put together. 

Step 5: Back to the Governor for Signature
After each of these steps is complete, the House and Senate agree on a budget bill, it is then sent back to Governor DeWine. It’s worth noting that any provision in any bill that includes appropriations can be line-item vetoed by Governor DeWine. This means he can strike any portion of the budget bill while approving the rest. Although he retains his line-item veto, Governor DeWine does not have the ability to change or add anything to the bill through the line-item veto.  This entire process and the budget bill must be signed by June 30 for the appropriations to take effect at the beginning of the new fiscal year, July 1.