Is the race for Ohio secretary of state already underway? Ohio Sen. Nina Turner, who is considering a run against Secretary of State Jon Husted in 2014, says she will introduce legislation to protect voters against Republican efforts to limit ballot access. She also criticized Husted for how he handled the 2012 election, which CityBeat covered here. Husted responded by asking Turner to “dial down political rhetoric.”
Build Our New Bridge Now, an organization dedicated to building the Brent Spence Bridge, says the best approach is private financing. The organization claims a public-private partnership is the only way to get the bridge built by 2018, rather than 2022. But critics are worried the partnership and private financing would lead to tolls.
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners threw out
a Metropolitan Sewer District competitive bidding policy yesterday. The
policy, which was originally passed by City Council, was called unfair
and illegal by county commissioners due to apprenticeship requirements and rules that favor contractors within city limits. Councilman Chris Seelbach is now pushing for compromise for the rules.
Believe it or not, Cincinnati’s economy will continue outpacing the national economy this year, says Julie Heath, director of the University of Cincinnati’s Economics Center.
Three Cincinnati-area hospitals are among the best in the nation, according to new rankings from Healthgrades. The winners: Christ Hospital, Bethesda North Hospital and St. Elizabeth Healthcare-Edgewood.
Democrat David Mann, former Cincinnati mayor and congressman, may re-enter politics with an attempt at City Council.
In its 2013 State of Tobacco report, the American Lung Association gave Ohio an F for anti-smoking policies. The organization said the state is doing a poor job by relying exclusively on federal money for its $3.3 million anti-tobacco program. The Centers for Disease Control says Ohio should be spending $145 million.
The Air Force is gearing up for massive spending cuts currently set to kick in March. The cuts will likely affect Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.
Dennis Kucinich, who used to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, will soon appear on Fox News as a regular contributor.
For anyone who’s ever been worried about getting attacked by a drone, there’s now a hoodie and scarf for that.
The operating budget plan, which passed with an 8-1 vote, comes after months of city officials threatening to lay off cops and firefighters if the city did not approve a plan to lease Cincinnati's parking assets to the Port Authority, which city officials previously claimed was necessary to raise funds that would help balance the operating budget for two years and fund economic development projects. But the parking plan is currently being held up in court, and the public safety layoffs are being avoided anyway.
Last week, council members Roxanne Qualls and Chris Seelbach announced a budget motion that would avoid all fire layoffs and all but 25 police layoffs. The remaining 25 police layoffs are being undone through the budget motion approved today, which increases estimates for incoming revenues with $1 million that is supposed to be paid back to the city's tax increment financing fund.
Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan did not sign onto the plan, articulating concerns that the budget maneuver will make the deficit worse in 2015 and fail to structurally balance the budget.
Even with the motion, the overall operating budget plan would make cuts elsewhere and raise fees and property taxes. If the plan is approved, about 60 city employees are expected to lose their jobs in the next couple weeks.
The cuts swept through most of the city government, hitting parks, the arts, human services, parades, administrative budgets and outside agencies, among many other areas.
The operating budget portion of the property tax will also climb from 5.7 mills in 2014 to 6.1 mills in 2015, which comes out to an extra $34 for every $100,000 in property value. The latest property tax increase comes after City Council approved a hike in 2013, pushing the property tax from 4.6 mills in 2013 to 5.7 mills in 2014.
The plan would also raise fees for several city services, including fire plan reviews and admission into the Krohn Conservatory.
Multiple council members claimed the austerity was necessary because of the state government, which has cut local government funding by about 50 percent during Gov. John Kasich's time in office ("Enemy of the State," issue of March 20).
Still, Lea Eriksen, the city's budget director, previously pointed out Cincinnati has not passed a structurally balanced budget since 2001.
City Council will vote on the overall budget plan May 30. Council members Qualls, Seelbach, Pam Thomas, Wendell Young and Yvette Simpson are expected to vote in favor of the plan, giving it enough votes to pass City Council.
The plan to lease Cincinnati’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority remains up in the air today after court rulings kept a court-mandated restraining order in place until at least March 15, when a hearing is scheduled at the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.
The hearing on March 15 will establish whether the lawsuit should move forward and whether the restraining order will remain until the lawsuit is resolved. The latter poses a budgetary challenge to the city; if the restraining order is kept in place and opponents gather the signatures required for a November referendum on the parking plan, the city says it will have to make cuts before July to balance the budget for fiscal year 2014, which could result in layoffs.
“We’ve been very clear that, by state law, we need to have a balanced budget starting July 1, so we will need to do all things necessary at that point,” says Meg Olberding, city spokesperson.
The lawsuit was originally moved to federal courts on March 7 because it included complaints regarding civil rights. Plaintiffs removed the mention of civil rights, which then prompted Judge Michael Barrett to send the lawsuit back to the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court.
City Council approved the parking plan in a 5-4 vote on March 6, but the plan was almost immediately held up by a temporary restraining order from Hamilton County Common Pleas Judge Robert Winkler. The restraining order is meant to provide enough time to process a lawsuit filed by Curt Hartman, an attorney who represents the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), on behalf of local activists who oppose the plan and argue it should be subject to referendum.
“If there was even five seconds without a temporary restraining order in place, the city’s going to sign that lease,” Chris Finney, another attorney that represents COAST, said in a public statement after the hearing with Barrett. “At that point, the city will argue that the case has moved and that the (referendum) petitions are void.”
The legal dispute is focused on City Council’s use of the emergency clause, which eliminates a 30-day waiting period on implementing laws but takes away the possibility of a referendum.
In an interview on March 7, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, who voted for the parking plan, told CityBeat the dispute over emergency clauses is politically motivated: “I think it’s nothing but a political controversy that’s generated for political gain and for political purposes. Council passes many of its ordinances with emergency clauses. In fact, the other candidate for mayor himself consistently voted for emergency clauses.”
The other mayoral candidate Qualls is referring to is John Cranley, a former council member who opposes the parking plan and says he will support a referendum effort.
“Just because the emergency clause may be used too often doesn’t make it right,” says Cranley. “I never voted for an emergency clause when there was a stated grassroots effort to have a referendum on a vote that I was facing.”
CityBeat previously covered the parking plan in further detail here.
Portune also gave ideas for possible adjustments to his sales tax proposal. He said commissioners could “sunset” the sales tax hike, essentially putting an expiration date on the tax increase. He also would like to see the sales tax hike reviewed on a regular basis to ensure taxpayers aren't being burdened longer than necessary. The idea behind possible time limits for both proposals is new revenues, perhaps from an improving economy or Cincinnati's new casino, could make changes unnecessary in the long term.
If anything came from the meeting, it’s that none of the commissioners like the position they’re in. Commissioner Chris Monzel, a Republican, said he had been placed “between a rock and a hard place.” Hartmann echoed Monzel, saying it was an “unenviable position.” Despite being the one to propose the hike, Portune said, “We’re left with two options that none of us like at all.”
Commissioners mostly repeated previous arguments during most of the meeting. Hartmann continued saying he was unsure how he would vote, but he said the two options presented are the only options left. He called Portune's plan “bold.”
Portune claimed the sales tax hike was more equitable because it spreads out the tax burden to anyone who spends money in Hamilton County, including visitors from around the Tristate area. In contrast, eliminating or reducing the property tax rollback would place the burden of the stadium fund exclusively on residential property owners in Hamilton County.
The property tax rebate and sales taxes are both regressive, meaning they favor the wealthy more than the poor. In simple terms, as income goes down, spending on goods and services take bigger bites out of a person’s income. A sales tax makes that disproportionate burden even larger.
One analysis from The Cincinnati Enquirer found
the wealthy made more money from the property tax rebate than
they were taxed by the half-cent sales tax raise that was originally
meant to support the stadium fund. For a previous story covering the stadium fund, Neil DeMause, a journalist who
chronicled his 15-year investigation of stadium deals in his book Field of Schemes, told CityBeat
the stadium fund’s problems stem from the county government making a
“terrible deal” with the Reds and Bengals.
Monzel said he will continue to try to find alternatives to raising taxes. On Nov. 28, Monzel told CityBeat he would rather keep the stadium fund balanced for one year with short-term cuts, including a cut on further investments in The Banks development, before raising taxes. In the long term, Monzel says commissioners could see if revenue from the new Horseshoe Casino and a possible deal involving the University of Cincinnati using Paul Brown Stadium would be enough to sustain the stadium fund.
The commissioners will vote on the proposals on Dec. 5.
An analysis released June 26 found Ohio’s top 1 percent would get the biggest breaks from the tax plan included in the final version of the two-year state budget, while the state’s poorest would pay more under the plan.
The analysis, conducted by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy for public policy think tank Policy Matters Ohio, shows the tax plan’s slew of tax cuts and hikes balance out to disproportionately favor the wealthy in terms of dollars and percents.
Meanwhile, the bottom 20 percent would pay about $12, or 0.1 percent, more in taxes. The second-lowest 20 percent would see their taxes go down by $5, rounded to 0 percent. The middle 20 percent would see a tax cut of $9, which is also rounded to 0 percent.
Policy Matters criticizes the tax plan, claiming the revenue should go to other programs, not tax cuts.
“Rather than approving a tax plan that will further shift Ohio’s tax load from the most affluent to low- and middle-income residents, we should direct those dollars into needed public services,” said Zach Schiller, Policy Matters Ohio research director, in a statement. “That includes restoring support for local governments and schools, and bolstering human services, from foodbanks to child care.”
Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans, says the tax plan is supposed to provide an economic boost to almost everyone, not any specific group.
“The tax plan is going to provide an overall tax cut for nearly all Ohioans,” he says. “What this plan intends to do is not disproportionately favor the wealthy at all.”
The broad tax cuts, Republicans claim, should provide a boost to Ohio’s economy that will spur further job growth.
But Schiller argues the tax cut ultimately won’t create jobs: “A 21-percent cut that was approved in 2005 has not kept Ohio’s job market from underperforming that of the country as a whole during and after the last recession.”
The tax plan cuts income taxes for all Ohioans and particularly business owners, but it balances the cuts by hiking sales and property taxes.
Specifically, the budget cuts income taxes for all Ohioans by 10 percent over three years, gives business owners a 50-percent tax break on up to $250,000 of annual net income and creates a small earned income tax credit for low- and middle-income working Ohioans based on the federal credit.
To balance the cuts, the plan raises the sales tax from 5.5 percent to 5.75 percent, increases future property taxes by 12.5 percent and graduates the homestead tax exemption to be based on need, meaning the lowest-income seniors, disabled and widowed Ohioans will get the most out of the exemption in the future.
Most recently, the conference committee added two safeguards for low-income Ohioans: a credit that wipes out income-tax liability for Ohioans making $10,000 or less a year and another $20 credit for those making $30,000 or less a year.
The Policy Matters analysis doesn’t take into account the two changes to property taxes and several other, smaller changes to income and sales taxes, but the rest of the changes, including the conference committee’s recent adjustments, are considered.
The tax plan is part of the $62 billion state budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, which passed the Republican-controlled General Assembly today. It's expected Republican Gov. John Kasich will sign it into law this weekend.
Update: Budget bill passed by General Assembly.
Check out all of CityBeat’s state budget coverage:
• State Budget's Education Increases Fall Short of Past Funding
• State Budget Rejects Medicaid Expansion
• State Budget to Limit Access to Abortion
Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel met once again Thursday night for a debate to see who is more qualified for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat. The candidates were a bit less feisty in their final debate, but the substance behind their words was fairly similar to the past two debates.
Mandel spent a bit less time attacking Brown for “Washington speak,” and Brown spent a bit less time attacking Mandel for dishonesty. However, Mandel did spend a bit more time attacking Brown for being a “career politician,” and both candidates criticized each other for voting along party lines.
Some new details did emerge when Brown and Mandel discussed Social Security. Mandel clarified he would raise the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare for those around his age — 35 — and younger. To justify the raise, he said life expectancy has grown since those laws were first put into place. He also claimed, “If we maintain the status quo, which is the way of Washington, there will be no Medicare or Social Security.”
Brown responded by saying he wouldn’t raise the eligibility age or reduce benefits, but he would increase the payroll tax cap.
In the case of Mandel’s proposal, there is some important context missing. While it’s true life expectancy has increased in the U.S., it has not increased at the same level for everyone. A 2008 study by the Congressional Budget Office found life expectancy is lagging for low-income individuals, while it’s steadily rising for the wealthiest Americans. A 2006 study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology had similar findings. These studies show increases in the average life expectancy may not be reflective of what’s actually happening within the poor and even middle class. In other words, raising the eligibility age to match the rise in life expectancy could disproportionately hurt the lower classes.
There are also some holes in gauging the eligibility age for entitlement programs with a rise in the average life expectancy. Social Security was enacted in 1935. Between the law passing and 2007, the U.S. child mortality rate dropped about 3.3 percent per year for children between the ages of one and four, according to a study from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This large drop in child mortality rate could be exaggerating gains in life expectancy, which is an average that takes into account the age of deceased children.
Mandel’s implication that raising the eligibility age is the only way to keep Social Security solvent is also misleading. Currently, the payroll tax is set up so it only taxes the first $110,100 of everyone’s income. A Congressional Research Service study from 2010 found eliminating the cap would keep the Social Security Trust Funds solvent for the next 75 years. The downside is this would raise taxes for anyone making more than $110,100. Still, the fact eliminating the cap would extend the trust funds’ solvency shows there are other options, and it shows Brown’s idea of increasing the cap has some fiscal merit.
However, Mandel would not be able to take Brown’s approach because it would mean raising taxes, which Mandel vowed to not do under any circumstance when he signed lobbyist Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge.
For the final debate, Mandel and Brown followed similar paths as before and even recited some of the exact same lines. At this point, the candidates have painted clear contrasts. With three debates and a year of campaigning behind them, it’s now clear Brown is mostly the liberal, Democratic choice and Mandel is mostly the conservative, Republican choice.
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here. Tomorrow is also the last day to register to vote.
A federal appeals court upheld the decision to allow in-person early voting for everyone during the three days prior to the election. The decision comes as a big win to President Barack Obama’s campaign, which filed a lawsuit to restore in-person early voting on the weekend and Monday before Election Day. Republicans in the state have repeatedly pushed against expanded early voting, citing racial politics and costs. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted said Friday he will decide what to do with the ruling after the weekend. The court ruling means Husted could close down all boards of election on the three days before Election day, eliminating early voting for everyone — including military voters. If Husted doesn’t act, individual county boards of election will decide whether to stay open or closed.
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners is discussing the budget today. It has a few options, but all of them involve cuts.
A recently released audit by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections (ODRC) found the private prison sold to the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) has some serious problems. The prison only met 66.7 percent of Ohio’s standards, and 47 violations were found. CCA says it’s working with ODRC to resolve the problems. The news mostly confirmed the findings of CityBeat’s in-depth look into private prisons.
Schools responded to the state auditor’s recent report that found five school districts were scrubbing data and the Ohio Department of Education did not have enough safeguards. The five school districts generally objected, saying they did not purposely alter any data provided to the state.
Humana will be hiring for 200 full-time jobs in Greater Cincinnati.
The University of Cincinnati is turning up its search for a new president this week. First up for consideration: Provost and Interim President Santa Ono.
The Associated Press says Cincinnati is a changed city thanks to recent development funding.
There will be a bar crawl to support the Anna Louise Inn on Oct. 13. The bar crawl, hosted by Ohioans United to Protect Abused Women, will last from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. Tickets will be sold for $10 with all proceeds going to the Anna Louise Inn. Participating bars will be Milton's Prospect Hill Tavern, Neon's, The Drinkery, MOTR, JAPS and Arnold's Bar.
Mayor Mark Mallory challenged San Francisco’s mayor to a chili cook-off to benefit the city that wins the Reds-Giants playoffs. Mallory touted some fighting words in a statement announcing the friendly bet: “I sure hope San Francisco Chili is as good as Mayor Lee says it is, that way it raises lots of money for Cincinnati’s youth, after the Reds send the Giants packing in the first round.”
Meet the chair of the U.S. House Science Committee's panel on investigations and oversight. He says evolution and the big bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of Hell.”
Republican state legislators are using the two-year state budget to pass sweeping anti-abortion measures — and they’re proud to admit it.
The goal is “to maintain the sanctity of human life,” says Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans.
Most recently, the House-Senate conference committee, which put the final touches to the state budget, tacked on an amendment that requires doctors to perform an external ultrasound on a woman seeking an abortion and inform the woman if a heartbeat is detected. The doctor would also be required to explain the statistical probability of the woman carrying the fetus to birth.
The amendment came in addition to other anti-abortion measures in the budget that would reprioritize family services funding to effectively defund Planned Parenthood, increase funding for anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and impose regulations that the state health director could use to shut down abortion clinics.
Under the regulations, abortion clinics would be unable to set patient transfer agreements with public hospitals, and established agreements could be revoked by the state health director. At the same time, if a clinic doesn’t have a transfer agreement in place, the state health director could shut it down with no further cause.
The rules allow abortion clinics to set agreements with private hospitals, but abortion rights advocates argue that’s more difficult because private hospitals tend to be religious.
Abortion rights advocates are protesting the measures, labeling them an attack on women’s rights.
“If the governor and members of the Ohio General Assembly want to practice medicine, they should go to medical school,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in a statement. “We urge Gov. (John) Kasich to veto these dangerous provisions from the budget. Party politics has no place in a woman’s private health care decision. The time is now to stand up and lead, not in the interests of his party, but in the interests of the women and families he has been elected to lead.”
Dittoe insists Republicans are not attacking women with the measures: “The women in our caucus have introduced some of these proposals. It’s hard to say it’s a ‘war on women’ when you have women actually introducing the legislation. It’s certainly not about an attack on women; it’s about protecting human life.”
Abortion rights supporters rallied today in Columbus in a last-minute stand, calling on Kasich to line-item veto the measures — a move that would keep the rest of the budget in place but nullify the anti-abortion provisions.
Kasich has so far declined to clarify whether he will veto the anti-abortion measures, instead punting multiple reporters’ questions on the issue.
Much of the debate has focused on Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion services, sexually transmitted infection and cancer screening, pregnancy tests, birth control and various other health care services for men and women.
Supporters point out no public funds go to abortion services, which are entirely funded through private donations. Public funds are instead spent on Planned Parenthood’s other services.
Dittoe says that Republicans still take issue with the abortion services, and it’s the sole reason Planned Parenthood is losing funding.
“Members of the House who have issues with Planned Parenthood have only issues with the abortion services,” he says. “The rest of what Planned Parenthood provides, I imagine they have no issue with whatsoever.”
About 15 percent of Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio’s budget comes from the family planning grants that are being reworked. Not all of that money is allocated by the state government; a bulk is also set by the federal government.
The anti-abortion changes will go into effect with the $62 billion state budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. Both chambers of the Republican-controlled General Assembly passed the budget today, and Kasich is expected to sign the bill into law this weekend.
Check out all of CityBeat’s state budget coverage:
• Report: State Budget Tax Plan Favors Wealthy
• State Budget's Education Increases Fall Short of Past Funding
• State Budget Rejects Medicaid Expansion
City Council approved a plan to lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, but the plan is now being held up by a judge’s temporary restraining order (TRO). The plan was passed with an emergency clause, which is meant to expedite the plan’s implementation, but it also makes the law immune to referendum. The judge’s TRO, which will delay implementation for at least one week, will provide enough time to process a lawsuit filed by Curt Hartman, an attorney who represents the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), on behalf of local activists who oppose the plan and argue it should be subject to referendum. The parking plan will lease the city’s parking assets to fund development projects, including a 30-story tower and a downtown grocery store, and help balance the deficit for the next two fiscal years. Opponents say they’re concerned about the plan leading to parking rate hikes, and they say the plan will not fix the city’s structural deficits.
Before the final vote on the parking plan, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. gave a presentation to City Council that showed options for reducing Cincinnati’s structural deficit, including a reduction or elimination of lower-ranked programs in the city’s Priority-Driven Budgeting Process, a reduction in subsidies to health clinics that are getting more money from Obamacare, the semi-automation of solid waste collection or the introduction of new or increased fees for certain programs, among other changes.
Ohio senators are pushing a law that would make records of people licensed to carry concealed firearms in Ohio off-limits to journalists. The senators say they were inspired to push the law after a New York newspaper published the names and addresses of permit holders in three counties. Dennis Hetzel, executive director of the Ohio Newspaper Association, says the law will decrease government transparency and limit rights: “I wish the pro-gun forces would be as respectful of the First Amendment as they are of the second, and they should be fearful of excessive government secrecy.”
The superintendent and treasurer of the Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy, a charter school, were indicted after allegedly using school funds to go to “Girls weekends” in Chicago, sightseeing tours through California and Europe and a trip to Boston to see Oprah — allegedly costing taxpayers more than $148,000. Dave Yost, state auditor, said in a statement, “The audacity of these school officials is appalling. The good work by our auditors and investigators has built the strongest possible case to ensure they can never use the public treasury as their personal travel account again.”
The Ohio Department of Transportation and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet are working together to make the case that any delays in the Brent Spence Bridge project will hurt Greater Cincinnati’s economy. Most people involved in the issue agree the bridge needs rebuilding, but not everyone agrees on how the project should be funded. Northern Kentucky politicians in particular have strongly opposed instituting tolls — one of the leading ideas for funding the project.
In public hearings yesterday, service industry officials said Gov. John Kasich’s budget plan, which will expand the state’s sales tax to apply to more service, would drive some service providers out of Ohio and make the state less competitive. Among other complaints, Carter Strang, president of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, said the plan could make it harder for Ohioans to access legal counsel by increasing costs and reducing employment in the legal sector. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal in detail here.
State Auditor Yost filed a subpoena to get JobsOhio’s financial records after the agency failed to turn them over. The subpoena puts Yost at odds with Kasich, a fellow Republican who established JobsOhio, a nonprofit company, in an attempt to bring more jobs to the state and replace the Ohio Department of Development.
Hamilton County is launching the Hamilton County Community Re-entry Action Plan, which will help integrate ex-convicts back into society. Commissioner Todd Portune told WVXU the plan will help with overpopulation in jails and prisons: “When you build (jail and prison) facilities, the population in them always seems to rise to meet whatever the (capacity) level is in the facility. You never seem to have enough space. The real answer beyond facilities is that we've got to turn around the lives of the individuals who are in our corrections system that have made bad choices.”
The University of Cincinnati says it won’t block an outdoor display of vagina pictures on campus.
Yesterday, Kentucky’s U.S. Sen. Rand Paul held a nearly 13-hour filibuster to protest any possible use of drone strikes on American soil. Paul was joined by senators from both sides of the aisle in his opposition to using the strikes, which were used in Yemen in 2011 to kill Anwar al-Aulaqi, an American citizen accused of being a high-ranking al-Qaeda official.
The same Cleveland judge who made a woman hold an “idiot” sign for driving around a school bus is making a 58-year-old man hold another sign for threatening officers in a 911 call. The sign will apologize to officers and read, “I was being an idiot and it will never happen again.” The man will also go to jail for 90 days.
There used to be camels in Arctic Canada, but that shouldn’t be too surprising — camels currently reside in the Gobi Desert, which can reach -40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter.
Ohio House Republicans are poised to reject the Medicaid expansion and the $500 million per year in federal funding that would come with it for the next two years — a move that has united Republican Gov. John Kasich, Ohio Democrats, mental health advocates and other health groups in opposition.
The Medicaid expansion is part of a measure in the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) that encourages states to expand their Medicaid programs to include anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level with the use of federal funds. For the first three years, the federal government would pick up the entire tab for the expansion. After that, payments would be phased down over time so the federal government would be paying 90 percent of costs.
Ohio House Republicans oppose the measure because they say they’re worried federal funding will dry up in the future, even though there is no historical precedent of the federal government failing to pay its commitment to Medicaid.
Kasich’s proposal for the Medicaid expansion includes an automatic trigger that would immediately stop and retract the expansion if federal funding falls through, but Ohio Republicans previously voiced concerns in hearings that the trigger would hurt Ohioans who have become accustomed to government-provided health insurance without any plan to make up for the lost coverage.
A report from the Health Policy Institute of Ohio found the expansion would help insure 456,000 Ohioans by 2022 and save the state money in the next decade by producing economic growth and shifting health-care expenses from the state to the federal government.
For advocates of mental health and addiction treatments, Ohio House Republicans’ rejection of the Medicaid expansion and other budget items means mental health and addiction services will miss out on $627 million per year, according to a report from the Office of Health Transformation.
Ohio House Republicans’ budget plan would include $50 million more annual funding for mental health and addiction services, but that’s also not enough to make up for the $140 million in annual funds cut around the state since 2002 and the $17 million being cut over two years through the dissolution of the tangible personal property tax replacement funds.
Cheri Walter, chief executive officer of the Ohio Association of County Behavioral Health Authorities (OACBHA), says the Medicaid expansion is a great opportunity to emphasize mental health services around the state.“On the mental health side, ... sometimes it can take two or more years for someone to get a disability determination that makes them Medicaid eligible,” she says. “In addition to making more people Medicaid-eligible, it will speed up the process for many others.”
Walter says for addiction patients in particular, getting access to health services can be difficult because alcoholism and other forms of addiction are not technically disabilities. By including more income levels in the Medicaid program, less people will fall through the cracks, she says.
OACBHA was one of the many groups that rallied at the Ohio Statehouse Thursday in support of the Medicaid expansion. The crowd, which received support from Ohio Democrats and Kasich, was estimated to reach 2,500.
Until the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Obamacare, the Medicaid expansion was required, but the court ruled that states must be allowed to opt in and out.
The Medicaid expansion was one of the few parts of Kasich’s budget plan that Democrats and progressives approved, while the two other major proposals in Kasich’s plan — school funding and a tax cut proposal — were criticized for disproportionately benefiting wealthy Ohioans (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20).