Office of Budget and Management director Kimberly Murnieks and Legislative Budget Office director Mark Flanders testified before the House Finance Committee. (Karen Kasler | Statehouse News Bureau)

Lawmakers Get Two Sets Of Forecasts To Start Budget Process

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On the first day of hearings on Gov. Mike DeWine’s $69 billion operating budget, lawmakers are hearing about two sets of economic forecasts. And they’ll have to decide which estimates they’ll go with.

“Conservative” is the word heard over and over when it comes to this budget.

Some Republican and Democratic lawmakers have questioned how DeWine can make big investments in children’s initiatives, the opioid crisis, at-risk students and Lake Erie protection just through economic growth.

DeWine’s Office of Budget and Management or OBM is headed by Kimberly Murnieks. She brought the budget to the House Finance Committee, where it begins its journey through the legislature.

“Each of the major taxes except the income tax are forecasted to be essentially flat or to experience more measured forecasted growth in fiscal year 20 compared to ’19. OBM’s track record for forecasting the GRF tax revenues is to be consistently conservative. Our forecast is not aggressive,” Murnieks said.

Right after her testimony, the office that does research for state lawmakers came forward. Mark Flanders is with the Legislative Budget Office, or LBO.

“Regarding the OBM and LBO revenue forecasts, we expect somewhat lower GRF revenue for the current fiscal year and the next biennium than does the executive budget.  The negative numbers in the table show that LBO’s forecast is lower for each year. The differences are small on a percentage basis, but noticeable in dollar terms,” Flanders said.

Both offices use the same economic organization’s information and predictions. The LBO is projecting half a billion dollars less in tax revenue over two years than what OBM is predicting. Flanders cites Medicaid enrollment estimates as one area where his office and OBM differ.

As Speaker Larry Householder considers which numbers to lean on for the House version of the budget, he said he thinks OBM’s figures are optimistic.

“I’m a conservative. I think when you look at the growth that Ohio has experienced historically, I think that the numbers that the administration’s offering are pretty high. We hope, we would like to see them be that high, but I think cautious is better,” Householder said.

Flanders says in seven of the last 13 budgets, the administration’s Office of Budget and Management has been closer to actual outcomes than legislative researchers were, but his office was on target in the last budget cycle.

The budget has to be signed by the end of June.