Amid a more than $1 billion financial shortfall, Ohio’s legislative Republicans pushed state budget negotiations closer to the brink Tuesday and today with eleventh hour horse-trading over a Medicaid lockout and complex money maneuvers, leaving Gov. John Kasich less than 48 hours to review the state budget, House Bill 49, before the start of the new fiscal year.
“While the rest of America is recovering from the global recession, six years of Republican mismanagement have held us back from solving real problems like attracting better-paying jobs, reducing healthcare costs, and strengthening our children’s schools,” said House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “Our economy continues to underperform and people at home are feeling it. The state is on a downward spiral to recession.”
To shore up the state’s deteriorating financial outlook, Republican lawmakers raided numerous special funds, ended local grant programs, delayed payment of certain bills and counted on a glowing economic forecast the next two years – though Ohio spent the last 54 months trailing the nation’s job growth.
“A budget that’s built on broken economic assumptions and ideology - instead of fact and reality - isn’t a real budget at all. It’s fake,” said the lead Democrat on the House budget panel, state Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire). “One-time money and shell games are a recipe for economic instability and even deeper financial problems for hardworking taxpayers in the coming months and years.”
GOP lawmakers even loosened future access to agency funds, like the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation fund, should the state budget bust before the end of the next fiscal year. The unusual move has been widely criticized and is believed by House Democrats to be illegal and unconstitutional.
“I voted against the state budget because the revenue stream is dishonest and irresponsible,” said Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid). “State tax collections have missed revenue projections 10 times in 11 months. In doing so, it shortchanges our future. The Republican philosophy of tax cuts for the wealthiest Ohioans while cutting schools, communities and services hasn't created economic stability, better paying jobs or real economic growth. Under Governor Kasich, Ohio has trailed the national average in job growth for 54 consecutive months. This budget follows the same failed course. On the road to forever we don't know the way.”
Republicans also propped up the state’s ledger by taking $35 million in local community funding used to fight opioid addiction and locking working people out of expanded Medicaid healthcare coverage. If federal approval is granted for the Medicaid lockout, the state estimates at least half-a-million people would lose healthcare.
“This budget not only threatens the economic well-being of working families, but attacks the health of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Ohioans,” said Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati). “At a time when Ohio leads the nation in opioid deaths, too many babies are dying before their first birthday in our state, and many families have love ones fighting some type of cancer or other serious health condition, blocking access to Medicaid for those who need it most literally puts the lives of Ohioans on the line.”
During the months-long budget process, House Democratic lawmakers called on Republicans to come together on economic and tax reforms that would put $200 million in real money against opioid addiction while walking back six years of tax-shifting that have seen Ohio trail the nation in job creation and shift to poverty-wage jobs.
“This budget is chock-full of the same old recycled and ill-conceived tax-shifting policies that we’ve seen time after time. In fact, we’ve seen these policies proposed in the last three budgets from this administration,” said House Minority Whip Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood). “Quite frankly, this budget passed by Republicans will restrict access to healthcare for veterans, single mothers and other hard-working low-income people. We know that restricting access to care has never made anyone safer, healthier or more financially stable, and it won’t start now. We cannot cut ourselves to prosperity.”
Democrats also said the state could better attract new businesses and good-paying jobs by rebuilding local communities and prioritizing education funding for every student to earn the skills they need to compete.
Though Republican lawmakers are seeking a six-year federal waiver for a new Medicaid tax that would keep counties and transit authorities from losing $200 million per year, local communities and schools have still had to ask local taxpayers for more money after the state cut almost $2 billion and $1 billion, respectively, during the last six years.
Here is what House Democratic lawmakers are saying about the state budget:
“While there are potentially some positive aspects to this budget, it is, on balance, overwhelmingly bad for Ohio,” said Rep. Glenn W. Holmes (D-McDonald). “Freezing Medicaid expansion, failing to create a concrete plan to make up for lost local government revenue, maintaining a tax cut that only benefits a small minority of well-off Ohioans while leaving everyone else to foot the bill—these are things I cannot, in good conscious, support.”
“An opportunity was missed to provide an economic lift for poor and hardworking Ohioans and maintain critical healthcare coverage for Ohio’s most vulnerable citizens,” said Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland).
“I am deeply concerned by the focus of this budget. It clearly doesn’t meet the needs of Ohio’s working families,” said Rep. Hearcel Craig (D-Columbus). “I want us to focus on creating an environment that attracts good-paying jobs and spurs economic development, ensures access to affordable health care, quality education and the availability of health and human services resources for all families. I believe all of these components are vital to the strength and economic stability of Ohio families.”
“I voted “no” on the budget because my constituents deserve a fair shot at economic security and a budget plan that invests long-term in the health, education and well-being of all Ohioans,” said Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati). “We had a real opportunity to address barriers holding our state back from economic recovery and to take bold steps to move Ohio forward. Unfortunately, this budget makes life more challenging, not easier, for too many Ohioans.”
“We had an opportunity to grow Ohio’s economy, ensure access to Medicaid for those most in need, improve our public schools and help guide those in the throes of addiction to a path of recovery,” said Rep. Catherine D. Ingram (D-Cincinnati). “Instead, this budget cuts back on all of these critical issues to pursue the same failed tax policies that benefit the wealthiest Ohioans at the expense of working families.”