Budget was proposed, ready for questions

By Julie Carr Smyth The Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Republican lawmakers did not ask any questions of Gov. Ted Strickland’s budget director yesterday after she laid out key elements of the Democratic administration’s spending plan to the GOP-controlled House Finance committee.

“It is our road map to a lean, competitive, modern government that is a critical element in spurring Ohio’s economic growth,” Budget Director Pari Sabety said during the $52.9 billion budget’s legislative debut.

It was the first time since 1971 that the administration of an Ohio governor has faced a Legislature of the opposite party in releasing the budget – and House Republicans hadn’t had the advance peeks at key elements that they often enjoyed under same-party governors.

House Finance Chairman Matthew Dolan, a Novelty Republican, said lawmakers had just received the bill and wanted to review it thoroughly before beginning debate.

He might have been itching to ask questions, Dolan said, but “we want them to be meaningful.”

In addition to barring questions of Sabety, Dolan also canceled full budget hearings scheduled for today and tomorrow – forewarning committee members that they are likely to be working through their spring break.

He said the committee will probably bring Sabety back to take questions next week, taking the intensity out of a day of budget testimony that is usually protracted and intense.

Sabety pledged after the unusually short budget opener to work with lawmakers as soon as they are ready.

“It’s a big bill, it’s got a lot of pages. We’ve done a lot of changes,” she said. “I think they needed the time to take a look at what they’ve done, reflect on it, and be able to ask educated questions.”