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Compromise talks on Ohio's $62B budget to begin

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Tax changes and funding for Ohio schools are among the top topics Tuesday as a legislative panel starts sorting out differences between the state House and Senate versions of the budget.

The six-member, bipartisan conference committee also planned to hear updated state revenue and Medicaid caseload projections at its Tuesday afternoon meeting.

Lawmakers face a June 30 deadline to pass the $61.7 billion, two-year state budget. A new fiscal year begins July 1.

The two chambers have separate tax plans and school funding formulas that must be reconciled.

The Senate's version of the budget strips out a 7 percent statewide income tax reduction passed by the House in favor of small-business exemptions. Senators also sent an additional $141.6 million in direct state aid to schools, compared with the funding formula the House passed.

Both chambers' versions of the budget left out Gov. John Kasich's proposed tax increase on high-volume oil and gas drillers and his plans for extending the state sales tax to professional services including those provided by legal, accounting and lobbying firms.

Kasich has worked to line up support for the tax increase on drillers ahead of the committee's meetings by offering to send a quarter of the proceeds back to Appalachia.

State lawmakers also excluded from the budget the Republican governor's proposal to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income Ohioans. A separate committee planned to hear bills on Tuesday that would make changes to the health program.

The Republican-controlled Senate added a provision to ban public hospitals from having agreements with abortion clinics to transfer patients. But the idea is not expected to be met with pushback in the GOP-dominated House, despite Democratic criticism.

State health department regulations require all ambulatory surgical facilities in Ohio, including abortion providers, to have transfer agreements with hospitals that would take patients in case they experience medical complications.

Abortion rights advocates say the move will force many facilities to close, limiting access to abortions. Supporters say it tightens Ohio's prohibition on using public money to support abortions.