Ohio House Republicans want to drastically change Gov. John Kasich’s state budget proposal and plan to scrap his expansion of Medicaid, substitute a 7 percent income tax cut for his proposed 20 percent break, and eliminate plans to hike taxes paid by oil and gas exploration companies.
House Speaker William Batchelder, R-Medina, said 20 of his caucus members “might shoot themselves” before voting to expand Medicaid. Conservatives in the Ohio House GOP caucus want to turn down $13 billion in federal funding that would expand Medicaid to 275,000 low-income Ohioans and replace it with $100 million in new state funding for mental health and addiction.
Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said expanding Medicaid is right for Ohio. “Not doing so will hurt our economy, make Obamacare’s impacts worse and hurt vulnerable Ohioans who need care. The House’s proposed funds for mental illness and addiction addresses part of the problem but it’s not enough. Ohio’s support for this needed change is diverse and broad and the governor will see this through to get it done,” he said.
The House plan sticks to Kasich’s promise that no Ohio school district will receive less state funding than they did this year. State aid for K-12 education increases 4.4 percent for 2013-14 and another 4.3 percent in 2014-15, with many districts seeing a 6 percent increase both years. The base per pupil amount increases from $5,000 under Kasich’s plan to $5,732 next year and $5,789 in 2015.
Organizations representing school administrators, business officials and school boards said Tuesday the changes were positive.
The House Finance Committee will hold hearings on the substitute bill this week and the full House is expected to vote on it next week. After that, it moves to the Ohio Senate where chances of a Medicaid expansion revival are unclear.
Medicaid is a state and federally funded health care program for low-income and disabled Ohioans that costs $19 billion a year and currently covers 2.2 million people statewide. The federal government promises to pick up 100 percent of the cost of expanding the program for the first three years and then dial it back to cover 90 percent of the cost in outlying years. The expansion is part of the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”
The expansion, which is supported by more than 100 groups and community leaders, would extend Medicaid coverage to 275,000 low income Ohioans and bring in $13 billion in federal funds to Ohio over the next seven years.
State Rep. Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton, opposes some elements of the budget bill but supports expanding Medicaid.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense to not do it. If we don’t do it, essentially, we end up spending money and our federal taxes go to subsidize other states that are doing the Medicaid expansion,” Strahorn said.
The driving force behind the opposition to Medicaid expansion is Chris Littleton, a tea party activist and head of Ohio Rising. Littleton and his colleagues used TV, radio, direct mail and online advertising to urge Republican primary voters in key legislative districts to press lawmakers to oppose the expansion plan. And they stand ready to continue the pressure in the Ohio Senate, he said.
“We don’t take any great joy in this. We aren’t doing this to get something from somebody,” Littleton said. “We sincerely believe this is really bad for Ohio and really bad for the long-term financial stability of Ohio.”
One Republican on the finance committee — Lucas County Rep. Barbara Sears — voiced opposition to scrapping Medicaid expansion. Sears has opposed Obamacare but said after the vote Medicaid expansion could be shaped to Ohio’s needs. Sears said it’s the right thing to do but is tainted by being part of Obamacare.
Sears is not hopeful the Senate will write it back into the bill.
“There’s a philosophical concern about the expansion of entitlements, but there’s a difference between outright expanding an entitlement without an end in mind and structuring a program that lifts somebody up and gives them the opportunity to move,” Sears said. “The vast majority of people we’re talking about here are hardworking Ohioans. They just need a little bit more.”
State budget coverage
We have three reporters working full-time in Columbus to bring you the latest news you need on the debate over the state budget. Between now and June as the state budget takes shape, we’ll have all of the details on the plans for taxes, schools, Medicaid and other state government issues. You can also follow our political team on Twitter at @Ohio_Politics
Highlights from the House budget plan
* Give a 7 percent, permanent income tax break across the board beginning with the current tax year.
* Eliminate plans to expand Ohio Medicaid to cover 275,000 additional low-income Ohioans.
* Change how family planning money is distributed, which will likely divert funds from Planned Parenthood clinics.
* Require school districts to count enrolled students monthly rather than once a year.
* Allow charter schools to offer career tech programs.
* Keep state sales tax rate at 5.5 percent.
* Allow home and private school students to participate in extracurricular activities in their home school district if their school does not offer them.
* Distribute evenly proceeds from drilling on state lands between the Clean Ohio program and state park maintenance.
* Add $2 million each year for Ohio foodbanks.