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Ohio governor vetoes ban on Medicaid expansion, keeps school vouchers, abortion language in budget

By   /   July 1, 2013  /   No Comments

By Maggie Thurber | For Ohio Watchdog

Gov. John Kasich vetoed 22 items in the $62-billion two-year Ohio budget, including a prohibition against expanding Medicaid and the imposition of a new Internet sales tax, but kept intact an expansion of school vouchers and controversial abortion language.

A LITTLE HELP: Felix Falco Plouck, 4, son of a Cabinet member,Sunday  helps Ohio Gov. John Kasich sign the state's $62 billion, two-year budget.

A LITTLE HELP: Felix Falco Plouck, 4, son of a Cabinet member,Sunday helps Ohio Gov. John Kasich sign the state’s $62 billion, two-year budget.

H.B. 59 was signed Sunday evening in a special ceremony at the statehouse in Columbus.

“We’re proud of our tax cuts, because we think it is another installment in Ohio’s comeback. It’s going to continue to give us great momentum,” the governor said. “And we’re all so proud of the fact that we have the largest increase in K-12 funding in a decade.”

The Medicaid language prohibited the state from covering individuals under 65 years, not pregnant, not entitled or enrolled in Medicare Parts A or B and whose income does not exceed 133 percent of the poverty line.  It also would forego federal funding to cover 100 percent of this group in 2014 and 2015.

The veto statement says the language would result in “…significant uncompensated care costs and the imposition of those costs onto Ohio businesses and citizens in the form of higher health insurance premiums.  To give the Ohio General Assembly and the executive branch maximum flexibility on this issue, this veto is in the public interest.”

Legislative approval still would be needed before any federal money is appropriated to expand the program.

Kasich also vetoed a provision that would have applied Ohio sales tax to Internet sales between out-of-state Internet retailers and Ohio consumers.  The veto message notes it is a federal issue and that similar language in other states has resulted in “extensive litigation without necessarily producing an increase in state revenue.”

Remaining intact in the budget was the expansion of the EdChoice vouchers.  Kindergartners whose family income does not exceed 200 percent of the federal poverty line, or $46,100 for a family of four, are now eligible.

The program will add one grade level of eligibility each year over the next 12 years and has a provision for reduced-value scholarships if family income is 400 percent of the federal poverty line.  Funding for the program will come from the state and not be deducted from the home districts as is done now.

The expansion sets the limit at $4,250, which participating schools have to accept as payment in full.  There are only 2,000 vouchers per grade per year, so a lottery will be held if there are more applicants than vouchers available, though prior recipients will have first priority.

The expansion was hailed by school choice proponents.

“This new program will allow parents who do not have the means to move to a better school district or to send their children to a private school the opportunity to give their children an education that best fits their learning needs,” Matt Cox, president of School Choice Ohio, said in a news release.

“This expansion no doubt will be a lifeline to many Ohio families,” said Robert Enlow, president and CEO of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, in an email to supporters “As more Ohioans get to realize the benefits of school choice, we hope that will encourage even greater growth toward making all families eligible.”

The language dealing with abortion would redirect funding away from organizations such as Planned Parenthood; use TANF dollars to create a new parenting and pregnancy program; block transfer agreements between public hospitals and ambulatory surgical facilities that provide abortions; and require providers to inform pregnant women of a fetal heartbeat in writing and estimate the statistical probability of bringing it to term.

“While here in Ohio we have school children who need educated, local governments that need funded, Medicaid that needs expanded, infrastructure that needs improved and people that need uplifting,” Sen. Nina Turner, D-Cleveland, said during debate on the budget. “Instead, Ohio Republicans are intent on regulating a woman’s womb.”

Ohio Right to Life President Mike Gonidakis dismissed opponents’ claims as rhetoric.

“Every time we advance pro-life legislation, it’s the exact same talking points,” he said when the Senate voted on the budget measure.  “To give proactively false information hurts their credibility and keeps them in the position they’re in now, where they’re losing.”

Other vetoed provisions:

  • Exempting spider monkeys from dangerous wild animal regulations
  • Mandates on how schools spend gifted state formula funds
  • Allowing licensed chiropractors to assess and clear student athletes after concussions
  • Exempting teachers in certain community schools with students with disabilities from certain Ohio Department of Education written exam requirements
  • Restrictions on municipal buffer zones around reservoirs
  • Changes to certain school districts’ local share agreements for building projects
  • Exempting therapeutic wellness camps from certain Ohio Department of Health regulations
  • Additional funding for nursing facilities
  • Higher payment rates for one particular Medicaid provider
  • A sales tax exemption for aerospace research and development and for gold coin and metal bullion sales
  • Changes to standards for the New Markets Tax Credit and Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit
  • A capital budget item for $10 million in security upgrades to the state treasurer computer system
  • A tax exemption for dentists who donate their time to provide dental services and a mandate for a mobile dental health pilot program.
  • Earmarks on workforce development funds, for commercial truck cargo inspection equipment and for the Thomas Edison Grant Program
  • Cost recovery by gas utilities for certain site or facility clean-up efforts
  • A mandate for a new workforce training program for the economically disadvantaged

The budget also reduces income taxes, eliminates the state’s property tax rollback on new levies and raising the sales tax, as well as imposing it on new items like magazine subscriptions and Internet downloads.

Democrats said the tax provisions disproportionately favored the wealthy.  Republicans said it will move the state toward a fairer, consumption-based tax system.

The Senate approved the bill by a vote of 21-11.  The House approved it by a vote of 53-44.  The votes were mostly along party lines, with only eight Republicans joining Democrats in opposition.

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Maggie Thurber is a contributor to Ohio Watchdog. She is a former elected official from Lucas County who started writing on her own blog while in office as a way to better share information with her constituents. She owns a communication consulting firm and lives in Toledo, Ohio. She can be reached at maggie@ohiowatchdog.org

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