The state will have about $1.5 billion surplus dollars at the end of this month. But budget director Tim Keen told lawmakers that most of the money is already spoken for. This week brought a deal between Gov. John Kasich and Rock Ohio Caesars, the company run by Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, who shut down construction on his two casinos in a dispute over taxes. Among other things, the deal would legalize electronic slot machines, or VLTs, at Ohio's seven horseracing tracks. State lawmakers have passed a bill to allow people with concealed-carry permits to take their firearms into facilities where alcohol is served and consumed, as long as they don't drink. The changed bill passed both the House and Senate mostly along party lines, and Gov. Kasich will sign it next week. The Republican-dominated Senate also approved opening up state parks and other lands in Ohio to oil and gas drilling. The House has passed the bill, but would have to agree to the Senate's changes before it could go to the governor.
The budget is in the hands of the six-member conference committee, which has set June 28 as the date by which it will finish its work. Republican House speaker Bill Batchelder held a news conference with other lawmakers and the National Federation of Independent Business-Ohio to talk about the budget and small businesses. And he also made clear he believes the budget deficit was $8 billion. But there are still questions about that deficit figure being raised by the progressive think-tank Innovation Ohio. Spokesman and longtime Democratic strategist Dale Butland talks about them.
We took a break from the budget this week - and headed out to one of the most unique places not only in Ohio, but in the world. It's Cranberry Bog, a floating island in the middle of Buckeye Lake in eastern Ohio. And it's not only very unusual, but it's not going to be around for much longer.
June 17, 2011