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Valley lawmakers, county commissioners team up to fight state budget cuts

Commissioners say current budget proposal will harm local communities
February 22, 2017
Democratic Newsroom

State Reps. John Boccieri (D-Poland), Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown), Glenn Holmes (D-McDonald) and Mike O’Brien (D-Warren) this morning hosted all three Mahoning County commissioners for a meeting with House Finance Committee Chairman Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton). 

Commissioners David C. Ditzler, Carol Rimedio-Righetti and Anthony Traficanti traveled to Columbus to voice their concerns regarding the negative local impact of Gov. John Kasich’s proposed fix to the Medicaid Managed Care Organization (MCO) tax formula.  

“I’m pleased our delegation’s meeting request to the budget chairmen was granted, and that our commissioners had the opportunity to express their concerns about local revenue loss,” said Boccieri. “The chairmen demonstrated that the legislature is still open to listening to local officials who are on the frontlines and can provide essential perspectives on what will keep our local communities strong and transportation systems running.” 

The federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have given Ohio a deadline of June 30, 2017 to remedy its MCO tax structure so that it complies with CMS policy, but any changes may threaten the millions of dollars local communities currently receive from the tax. 

The governor’s budget proposal provides aid for some counties as it drops the MCO tax revenue in the long term, but the lack of a permanent replacement will leave Mahoning and Trumbull Counties without the approximately $3.7 million and $2.7 million in annual tax revenue, respectively. 

“These devastating cuts will directly impact our ability to deliver essential services that help seniors and children,” said Lepore-Hagan. “Our community has already been stretched thin by repeated tax-shifting from the state over the past several years, and we cannot afford yet another hit.” 

The state lawmakers also penned a letter to the governor last month detailing their concerns on this issue. 

“I’m pleased that our local officials were given the opportunity to express their concerns here in Columbus,” said Holmes. “Families in the Valley expect the buses to run on time and police and fire to show up when they dial 911, but repeated budget cuts by the state have left our communities struggling to deliver essential services. We need a permanent solution to the MCO-related cut, not a temporary Band-Aid.”   

Audrey Tillis, Department Head of the Mahoning County Office of Budget and Management, noted that the impacts of the revenue loss would be felt the most in the public safety and judiciary-related arena, as communities rely on the sales tax to cover much of those sectors’ budgets. 

“The MCO cuts will create a budgetary nightmare in Trumbull County,” said O’Brien. “At a time when law enforcement and service providers are doing everything they can to address the statewide opioid epidemic, cutting their resources will only worsen the drug crisis.”  

Joining the three Mahoning County commissioners today was a commissioner from Shelby County, as well as two representatives from the County Commissioners Association of Ohio.