The Associated Press
COLUMBUS — Gov. Ted Strickland weighed his veto options Saturday as he prepared to sign a new two-year, $52.3 billion state budget that expands health insurance coverage for children, freezes college tuition and gives seniors a property tax break.
Strickland, Ohio’s first Democratic governor in 16 years, hit no major bumps in his first foray into budget-writing and even won the praise of Republicans who fought Democratic lawmakers fiercely over the 12 years that the GOP controlled both the Legislature and the governor’s office. The spending plan had to be place by 12:01 a.m. today under Ohio law.
The governor didn’t tip his hand about how he might use his line-item veto power, although he indicated that he might eliminate a school voucher program for children with special needs, a move keeping with his earlier attempt to end all public school vouchers in Ohio except in Cleveland. Vouchers are state scholarships for pupils attending private schools.
Republican leaders in the Legislature removed Strickland’s plan to cut vouchers and instead added the program for special-education students. Strickland said he believed children’s needs could be met without a voucher program.
Attempts to override any Strickland veto are remote. A three-fifths majority in each chamber is required. That means 60 votes in the House, which has just 54 GOP members.
Expected to remain in the budget were higher-education priorities sought by Strickland, House Speaker Jon Husted of suburban Dayton and Senate President Bill Harris of Ashland. Both lawmakers are Republicans.
Strickland and Husted proposed a freeze on college tuition rates for one year and a 3 percent cap on increases in the other year. The Senate froze tuition for two years and that plan was included in the final budget document approved Wednesday by both chambers in a near unanimous vote.
Also in the budget is $100 million for science, technology, engineering and math scholarships and more money for high schools that prepare students in those fields.
Strickland also won approval of an expansion of a program that allows poor children to be eligible for Medicaid coverage, another that allows eligible middle-class families to buy into the government health insurance program for a low premium and coverage for higher wage families with children uninsurable through the private market.