CHICAGO — Ohio House Republicans this week introduced a bill to set up a legislative budget office that would provide fiscal advice independent of the state’s Office of Budget and Management, which Republicans dubbed a “tool” of Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.

The move comes as the General Assembly deliberates Strickland’s proposed $54 billion, two-year budget. Republican lawmakers have complained they lack accurate fiscal information to try to craft a final spending plan.

Sponsored by House Minority Leader William Batchelder, R-Medina, the budget office bill comes a few weeks after Batchelder and other Republicans urged Strickland to fire budget director J. Pari Sabety. The lawmakers accused Sabety of failing to provide accurate revenue projections and release annual audits on time.

Democrats control Ohio’s House and Republicans control the Senate. Batchelder’s bill has no Democratic co-sponsors.

Ohio had an independent budget office until 2001, when GOP leaders eliminated it over political differences.

Batchelder, in a press conference with other Republicans Wednesday, said it’s time to bring the office back. “Re-establishing an independent office to conduct fiscal research for the legislature will provide a check and balance to the executive branch which has been missing,” he said.

Strickland’s office was not immediately available for comment.

Under the proposal, the legislative budget office would provide oversight and continuous monitoring of the state’s finances. It would analyze the state’s biennial budgets, advise lawmakers on any problems arising with the state’s finances, and “raise any questions regarding fiscal actions taken by the governor or state agencies,” according to a release put out by House Republicans.

“Those under the Office of Budget and Management are wonderful at what they do,” Batchelder said in a statement. “But OBM is and will always be a tool of the governor’s office. They do not serve the General Assembly and in light of recent misgivings, we must level the playing field and provide the legislature with the independent, nonpartisan information it needs.” 

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