Ohio and Ontario have a few things in common. For one thing, they both start and end with O. They also both recently went through a budget. That is pretty much where the similarities end.
The Ohio budget is the state’s spending plan for a period of two years, whereas Ontario has a budget each year. Ohio’s 2012 budget was about $58 billion dollars, whereas Ontario’s 2013 budget was over twice that at $124 billion dollars. Our province has a $9.8 billion dollar deficit, whereas Ohio is constitutionally required to have a balanced budget. Should Ohio’s revenue or expenses differ from projections, the Governor must take action to balance the budget, whether that is cutting spending, investing in a “rainy day” fund, or returning money to the tax payers.
Those are just some of the discrepancies. The budget processes in these two jurisdictions are also very different.
Ohio’s budgetary process begins with an Executive proposal in mid-February or mid-March. The House of Representatives then writes and passes a budget based on that proposal in late April. Then budget then goes to the other elected body of the legislative branch, the Senate, where it is amended and passed by late May. This process results in two elected bodies each passing their own version of a budget document that could be very different. The discrepancies are reconciled by a conference committee made up of majority and minority elected representatives from both legislative bodies. This compiled document must pass both the House and the Senate, but without any amendments. The Governor has line-item veto power on budget provisions and signs the budget in order to make it law.
The Ohio fiscal year begins on July 1, so ideally, this entire process is complete by June 30, when the Legislative Service Counsel (LSC) throw a party for everyone involved in the budget process. This so-called Rockin’ Budget Eve is the culmination of a lot of hard work by the legislative staff. When we were visiting, the conference committee was in the midst of reconciling the two documents and the LSC staff were hopeful that the process would be complete in time for the new fiscal year and for them to enjoy the party.
It was very interesting to learn about the budget process in Ohio and compare it with the annual procedure in our own province.