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by German Lopez 07.15.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, 2013 Election, Budget at 09:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
qualls

Morning News and Stuff

Inclusion becomes mayoral issue, streetcar clears hurdle, state budget cuts local funding

Following Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley’s announcement Friday to increase city contracts with minority- and women-owned businesses once elected, fellow Democratic mayoral candidate and Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls echoed support for the proposals, although she disputed Cranley’s record on the issue. One issue in particular is the Croson study that would allow the city to prepare for a broader inclusion plan for minorities and women. Qualls has repeatedly proposed a Croson study during her time in City Council and previous time in the mayor’s office, but she says Cranley failed to publicly raise the issue at all during his time on council between 2000 and 2009.

Cincinnati’s streetcar project cleared another hurdle Friday when Messer Construction announced it needed $500,000 to carry out construction work, which is easily covered by the project’s $10 million contingency fund. With a construction contract, new funding and accountability measures now moving forward, the only potential issue is who has to pay to move utility lines to accommodate for streetcar tracks. The city claims Duke Energy does, while the energy company puts the onus on the city. That issue is currently being worked out in court, although the city has already set aside $15 million to carry out the work for now and just in case Duke isn’t forced to carry the costs. Throughout the streetcar’s history, the project has been mired in misrepresentations and exaggerations, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.

The recently approved two-year state budget provides about $517 million less local government funding than the budget did in 2011, even though it pays for $2.7 billion in new tax cuts. Democrats have been highly critical of the cuts, but the governor’s office says local governments are effectively getting more funding through other sources not particularly geared for city and county governments. CityBeat covered local government funding in greater detail here and the state budget here.

Some state officials are pushing to establish an online, searchable database that would allow Ohio taxpayers to track state spending penny-by-penny. The state treasurer’s office already maintains a database for teacher and state employee salaries.

The Health Careers Collaborative, an organization working to increase health care employment in Greater Cincinnati, has a new leader.

Amish communities in Ohio are questioning whether they should take royalties for land that would be used for fracking, an oil and gas extraction process that environmentalists claim is dangerous for surrounding air and water. For the Amish, the issue is spiritual, rooted in their religious restrictions against technology and many facets of the modern world. CityBeat covered fracking and its ongoing effect on some Ohio communities in greater detail here.

Ohio gas prices are starting up this week.

Twinkies are returning to store shelves today.

HD 189773b, a blue exoplanet, may look hospitable, but the planet has a bad habit of raining glass sideways.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.12.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Budget at 10:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
streetcar

Streetcar Gets Good News with New Construction Bid

Messer Construction asks for less than $500,000 more; easily covered by contingency fund

Messer Construction says it needs nearly $500,000 more than the original $71 million it asked for to do construction work for the streetcar project, but the extra money is easily covered by the project’s $10 million contingency fund that the city established in case of further cost overruns.

In June, City Council approved an extra $17.4 million and accountability measures for the streetcar project, which require the city manager to publicly update council with a timeline of key milestones, performance measures, an operating plan, staffing assessments and monthly progress reports.

During discussions for the funding and accountability proposals, some council members, particularly Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, raised concerns that Messer would require more money than the city could afford. Sittenfeld said he was especially concerned Messer would have all the leverage going forward, considering the city supposedly needed the lower construction bid to keep the project within its new budget.

Messer was the lowest bidder for the project’s construction work, but even that bid came $26 million higher than the city’s original estimates, forcing the city to close a budget gap if the project was to continue.

With the construction bids taken care of, the only known funding concern for the streetcar is who has to pay $15 million for moving utility lines to accommodate for streetcar tracks. Duke Energy argues the cost burden is on the city, while the city says the energy company has to pay up. The issue is currently being decided in court.

Ever since Cincinnati began pursuing the streetcar project, it’s been mired in misrepresentations and political controversy, which CityBeat covered in further detail in this week’s cover story.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.11.2013
Posted In: Abortion, Budget, News at 03:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ed fitzgerald

FitzGerald Unveils Plan to Repeal Anti-Abortion Measures

State budget limits access to legal abortions through various changes

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is urging a coalition effort to begin a long, complicated petitioning process that could repeal some of the anti-abortion measures in the recently approved two-year state budget.

If the petitioning process is successful, it would force the Ohio General Assembly to consider repealing aspects of the budget that dont involve appropriations of money. If the General Assembly changes, rejects or ignores the repeal proposal, it could be put on the ballot in November 2014.

FitzGerald is jump-starting the repeal effort through a new website, Ohioans Fight Back.

Speaking at a press conference Thursday, FitzGerald also questioned the constitutionality of some of the anti-abortion measures, particularly those that require doctors give certain medical information regarding abortions and restrict publicly funded rape crisis centers from discussing abortion as a viable option. He said such rules might violate free speech rights.

The state budget effectively defunds contraceptive care and other non-abortion services at various family planning clinics, including Planned Parenthood. It also makes it more difficult for abortion clinics to establish mandatory patient transfer agreements with hospitals.

The budget provides separate federal funding to crisis pregnancy centers, which act as the pro-abstinence, anti-abortion alternatives to comprehensive clinics like Planned Parenthood.

The budget also gives money to rape crisis centers, but centers that take public funding are barred from discussing abortion as a viable option with rape victims.

Days before the budget’s passage, Republican legislators also added an amendment that forces women to get an ultrasound prior to getting an abortion. As part of the amendment, doctors are required to inform the patient if a heartbeat is detected during the ultrasound and provide an estimate of the fetus’s chances of making it to birth.

FitzGerald, who’s currently Cuyahoga County executive, plans to run against Republican Gov. John Kasich in 2014.

Kasich signed the controversial state budget with the anti-abortion measures on June 30, despite calls for the governor to use his line-item veto powers — a move that would have kept the rest of the budget in place but repealed the anti-abortion provisions.

CityBeat analyzed the state budget in further detail here.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.11.2013
Posted In: News, Guns, Budget, Streetcar at 09:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover streetcar misrepresentations

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar project misrepresented, gun control battle continues, Media Bridges closing down

Ever since the Cincinnati streetcar has been envisioned, the mass transit project has been mired in misrepresentations driven largely by opponents and politicians. CityBeat has a breakdown of the misrepresentations here, showing some of the silliest and biggest falsehoods claimed by opponents and supporters.

The national battle over gun control came to Cincinnati on July 4 when former Rep. Gabby Giffords stopped at the Northside parade to call for new restrictions on firearms. Giffords is part of a slew of national leaders calling for stronger regulations and enforcement for background checks — a policy more than nine in 10 Americans support. Still, the call seems to be politically unheard so far: Federal legislation is stalled in Congress, and Ohio legislators are working to loosen gun restrictions.

Facing city budget cuts, public access media organization Media Bridges is shutting down by the end of the year. The city picked up Media Bridges’ funding after the organization lost state funding that had been provided through an agreement with Time Warner Cable. But city officials claim the local funding was supposed to act as a one-year reprieve and nothing more — a claim Media Bridges was apparently never made aware of until it was too late. To justify the cut, the city cites public surveys that ranked budget programs in terms of importance, but a look at the citizen surveys shows the demographics were skewed against low-income people who make the most use out of programs like Media Bridges.

Check out CityBeat’s editorial content for this week’s issue:
• German Lopez: “Meet Daniela,” the hypothetical victim of Republican policies at the state and national level.
• Ben Kaufman: “‘Enquirer’ Takes Questionable Approach to Covering Meyers Ordination,” which analyzes the questionable apathy to a supposedly “illegal” ordination of a woman Catholic priest.
• Kathy Wilson: “Until It’s Time for You to Go,” a look at the life story of South African leader Nelson Mandela and the hurdles he faced as he helped end discriminatory apartheid policies.

If you’re headed to Fountain Square today, expect to see some images of bloodied fetuses and fetal limbs. An anti-abortion group is showing a video with the gruesome visuals as part of a protest against what it sees as “the greatest human rights injustice of our time.” The group defends its tactics by citing its First Amendment rights. The U.S. Supreme Court has so far refused to rule one way or the other on the issue, but, barring some restrictions for airwave broadcasts, the court typically protects all kinds of political speech as long as it’s not pornographic.

The Cincinnati Police Department is changing how it responds to calls to focus on what it sees as the most important issues, such as impacting violent crime, youth intervention efforts, long-term problem solving projects, traffic safety and neighborhood quality-of-life issues. The biggest change will come with how the department reacts to minor traffic accidents: It will still respond, but it may not file a report.

The so-far-unnamed Greater Cincinnati coalition working to reduce the local infant mortality rate set a goal yesterday: zero. It’s a dramatic vision for a region that, at 13.6, has an infant mortality rate more than twice the national average of six, as CityBeat covered here.

Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld announced in a statement yesterday that he will be gathering local leaders and health officials to encourage the state to expand Medicaid. The expansion, which CityBeat covered in further detail here, would save Ohio money and insure half a million Ohioans in the next decade, according to an analysis by the Health Policy Institute of Ohio.

Fish oils may increase the risk of prostate cancer, according to a new study.

A measure that would disallow employers from discriminating against gay and lesbian individuals made it through a U.S. Senate committee yesterday.

Cadillac’s Super Cruise could have the features to making self-driving cars viable.

A device trains blind people to see by listening.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.10.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Media at 11:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 
media bridges studio

Media Bridges Shutting Down

Public access media organization to close by end of year

Local public access media organization Media Bridges is shutting its doors for good by the end of the year, ending nearly 25 years of public service.

The organization’s demise is a result of the city eliminating funding for Media Bridges in its latest budget, which was passed by City Council in May.

“It is with great sadness that I must announce that Media Bridges will close its doors by the end of 2013. The city has made it extremely clear that we will not be receiving any more funding from them. While we have tried many other avenues for revenue it has become clear that we will be unable to sustain operations beyond 2013,” Media Bridges Executive Director Tom Bishop announced Tuesday in the organization’s newsletter.

The shutdown will be a steady process, with Media Bridges completely closing once its channels are transferred or Dec. 13 — whichever comes first.

The city’s budget cuts were originally considered in December, but City Council managed to restore some funding to keep the organization afloat. Prior to the partial restoration, Bishop had called the cuts a “meteor” to his organization’s budget.

City officials previously defended the cuts to Media Bridges, citing city surveys that ranked the program poorly in terms of budgetary importance. For the surveys, the city used meetings and mailed questionnaires to gauge public opinion.

But Bishop claims the surveys’ demographics were lopsided against low-income Cincinnatians, the income group that benefits the most from public access programs like Media Bridges.

For both the meeting-based and mail-in surveys, Bishop’s claim checks out. His concern is even directly acknowledged and backed in the documented survey results for the meetings: “Twenty-two percent of meeting participants earned less than $23,050 per year, compared to 40.8 percent of the population at large who earn less than $24,999 per year. While this is not representative of the population at large, the data does indicate strong participation from low income residents.”

Meanwhile, wealthier Cincinnatians were much better represented, with 11 percent of meeting participants making $150,000 or more per year despite only 6 percent of the city at large belonging to that income group, according to the survey results.

The same issue can be found in the mail-in survey: Only 22 percent of respondents made less than $25,000, while 10 percent made $150,000 or more.

“Its ridiculous that they would call that representative of the city of Cincinnati,” Bishop says.

Instead of using its skewed survey results, Bishop argues the city should have looked at the 2010 Spring Greater Cincinnati Survey from the University of Cincinnati’s Institute for Policy Research. In that survey, Cincinnati respondents were asked how important it was to provide recording equipment to citizens and neighborhoods so they can “produce educational and public access programs for cable television.” About 54.3 percent called it “very important,” 33.9 percent labeled it “somewhat important” and 11.7 percent said it was “not too important.”

City officials also defended the cuts by claiming that funding was only provided as a “one-year reprieve” after Media Bridges lost state funding that came through Time Warner Cable, which successfully lobbied to end its required contributions in 2011.

Bishop disputes the citys claim, saying Media Bridges and its staff weren’t informed that the city funding was meant to be temporary — at least until it was too late.

Media Bridges is a public access media organization founded in 1988 that allows anyone in Cincinnati to record video and sound for publicly broadcasted television and radio. It also provides educational programs for people new to the process.

Although Media Bridges is closing down, the city is still funding CitiCable, which, among other programming, broadcasts City Council and county commissioner meetings, through franchise fees from Cincinnati Bell and Time Warner.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.09.2013
Posted In: News, Casino, Budget, Infrastructure at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
brent spence bridge

Morning News and Stuff

Bridge project to use tolling, governor prepares budget victory lap, casino revenue down

Ohio and Kentucky officials will roll out a plan in September to pay for the Brent Spence Bridge project with tolling — a decision that could lead to opposition from Northern Kentucky officials who have long advised against using tolls to finance the $2.5 billion project. The funding choice comes as little surprise, given the lack of major federal support for the interstate bridge project. But tolling could put the plan in danger if the Kentucky legislature follows the lead of its Northern Kentucky delegation. The announcement follows a December agreement between Ohio and Kentucky’s governors to get the project done.

Gov. John Kasich will be using a month-long tour to show off the new two-year state budget. The schedule for the tour is still being worked out, but at least one stop in southwest Ohio is expected. The $62 billion budget has many moving parts, but a CityBeat analysis found the plan disproportionately favors the wealthy and limits access to legal abortions and contraceptive care in Ohio.

Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino posted its worst monthly revenue gains since its grand opening in March. It was an equally poor month for the rest of the state, which saw the worst casino revenue gains since Cincinnati’s casino opened. If the trend holds up, that could be a troubling sign for proponents of using casino revenue to balance local and state budgets.

A prominent Ohio Republican and former Kasich cabinet member says he supports overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage, giving a bipartisan jolt to FreedomOhio’s efforts to get the issue on the ballot in 2014. Jim Petro, former attorney general and previous head of the state’s higher education board, has a daughter who’s gay, which may have influenced his decision. He was joined by Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio, when announcing his support. CityBeat covered FreedomOhio’s same-sex marriage amendment when it was originally slated for the 2013 ballot here.

Cincinnati Gardens is for sale. Kenko Corporation, which has owned the garden for 35 years, announced its plans yesterday. “Our hope would be to sell, and see the historic venue move forward in its current state: a sports and entertainment venue,” explained Pete Robinson, president of the Cincinnati Gardens, in a statement. “However, we are prepared to explore other opportunities.”

At least two county commissioners are expected to approve the Cincinnati Zoo’s levy request, which could put the flat renewal of the five-year levy on the ballot this November.

In other zoo news, here is Gladys the gorilla with her family.

As City Council winds down its sessions, Councilman Chris Seelbach will keep busy and help other city employees pick up garbage and clean sewers. Seelbach will be tweeting about his experiences in a different kind of public service here.

Kroger led Cincinnati stocks to a big start in July — a good sign for an ailing national economy that has struggled to get back on its feet. The Cincinnati-based grocer also announced on Tuesday that it will buy rival Harris Teeter Supermarkets Inc. in a $2.4 billion deal.

Here are some pictures of carnivorous plants in action.

 
 
by Hannah McCartney 07.05.2013
 
 
phil_burress

Morning News and Stuff

Kasich receives presidential bid endorsement, a bionic duck, 105.75 hot dogs

Plunderbund Ohio reports that Gov. John Kasich has picked up his first endorsement for a presidential bid from Citizens for Community values president and executive director and self-professed former porn addict Phil Burress, following Kasich's signing of some of the country's most archaic and restrictive anti-abortion provisions in the nation. This week’s news story by CityBeat’s most glamorous misanthrope, German Lopez, explains how the recently passed state budget caters to Republicans by lowering taxes for the rich, tries to block health care for the poor and effectively defunds Planned Parenthood and its valuable health services.

Eleven school buses were hijacked from the Petermann Bus Company bus lot in Golf Manor. All but one of the buses has been recovered. Ralph Brown, who supervises the company, speculated some kids just wanted to take a "joy ride."

Columbia Parkway is open again after massive flash flooding and landslides inundated the road, but this weekend's wet forecast could cause it to flood again.

SPCA Cincinnati is adopting out cats and kittens for just $5 through this weekend in honor of Independence Day. Visit the Northside or the Sharonville location. 

"God buried fossil fuels 'because he loves to see us find them.'" No. 5 on Rolling Stone's top 10 list of the dumbest things ever said about global warming comes from Bryan Fischer, director at the American Family Association.

Men can eat a lot more weiners than women. Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas ate 36.75 hot dogs yesterday in Brooklyn, N.Y., at Coney Island's 98th annual Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest, earning first place in the women's division, while male title winner Joey Chestnut ate 69 dogs IN 10 MINUTES.

Here's why hot temperatures sometimes can make you cranky

Women in Egypt are at a staggeringly high risk to become victims of sexual assault. More than 80 women were raped, sexually harassed or sexually assaulted during Wednesday night’s mob celebration of the forced departure of president Mohamed Morsi on Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo. 

Buttercup, a duck born with his left foot twisted backward, is now on top of the world after his owner used 3D printing to create a brand new foot for Buttercup. Here is a video for good measure.

 
 
by German Lopez 07.02.2013
Posted In: News, Development, Voting, Budget at 09:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
pride_seelbach_jf

Morning News and Stuff

Seelbach calls for Voting Rights Act rework, 3CDC upkeep criticized, politics in budget veto

Councilman Chris Seelbach and other local leaders are calling on Congress to rework the Voting Rights Act following a U.S. Supreme Court decision that struck down key provisions. Supporters of the Voting Rights Act argue it’s necessary to prevent discrimination and protect people’s right to vote, while critics call it an outdated measure from the Jim Crow era that unfairly targeted some states with forgone histories of racism. “Within 24 hours of the Supreme Court’s decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, five states are already moving ahead with voter ID laws, some of which had previously been rejected by the Department of Justice as discriminatory,” Seelbach said in a statement. “The right to vote is one of the most sacred values in our nation and Congress should act immediately to protect it”.

Nonprofit developer 3CDC says it’s restructuring staff and guidelines to take better care of its vacant buildings following criticisms from residents and the local Board of Housing Appeals. The board has fined the 3CDC three times this year for failing to maintain Cincinnati’s minimum standards for vacant buildings, which require owners keep the buildings watertight and safe for emergency personnel to enter.

Gov. John Kasich said the funding allocation belonged in the capital budget — not the operating budget he signed into law — when he vetoed money going to State Treasurer Josh Mandel’s office, but The Columbus Dispatch reports it might have been revenge for Mandel’s opposition to the Medicaid expansion and an oil-and-gas severance tax. Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols says the allegation is “silly” and “absurd,” adding that Kasich said he would work with Mandel on allocating the money during the capital budget process. The state treasurer’s office says it needs the $10 million to upgrade computers against cyberattacks. Mandel was one of the first state Republicans to come out against the Medicaid expansion, which CityBeat covered here and here.

A series of mandatory across-the-board federal spending cuts was supposed to take $66 million from Ohio schools, but state officials say they’ll be able to soften the blow with $19 million in unspent federal aid. The federal cuts — also known as “sequestration” — were part of a debt deal package approved by Congress and President Barack Obama that kicked in March 1. Prior to its implementation, Obama asked Congress to rework sequestration to lessen its negative fiscal impact, but Republican legislators refused. CityBeat covered some of sequestration’s other statewide effects here.

The mayoral race officially dropped down to four candidates yesterday, with self-identified Republican Stacy Smith failing to gather enough signatures to get on the ballot.

Check out the Cincinnati Zoo’s latest expansion here.

Headline from The Cincinnati Enquirer: “Where does John Cranley live?”

It’s now legal to go 70 miles per hour in some state highways.

Cincinnati-based Kroger and Macy’s came in at No. 2 and No. 14 respectively in an annual list of the nation’s top 20 retailers from STORIES magazine.

The Tribune Co. is buying Local TV LLC in Newport for $2.7 billion to become the largest TV station operator in the nation.

Human head transplants may be closer than we think (and perhaps hope).

 
 
by German Lopez 07.01.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Health care, Education at 09:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Morning News and Stuff

Governor signs budget, school funding falls short in long term, Medicaid expansion denied

Following approval from the Republican-controlled General Assembly earlier in the week, Gov. John Kasich last night signed a $62 billion two-year state budget that makes sweeping changes to taxes and takes numerous anti-abortion measures. On the tax front, Policy Matters Ohio previously criticized the mix of income tax cuts and property and sales tax hikes for favoring the wealthy. Meanwhile, abortion-rights advocates say the budget will hurt women by limiting access to abortion, while Republicans say they’re trying to protect the “sanctity of human life.”

The budget also makes changes to the school funding formula that increases funding to schools by $700 million, but the funding is still $515 million less than Ohio schools got in 2009. Stephen Dyer, former Democratic state representative and education policy fellow at left-leaning think tank Innovation Ohio, says Republican legislators should have spent less time on tax reform and more on education. Although Dyer acknowledges the final education plan is more equitable than Kasich’s original proposal, he argues equity doesn’t matter much when schools are still underfunded.

One policy that didn’t make it into the final state budget: the Medicaid expansion. Kasich strongly backed the expansion throughout the budget process, but Republican concerns about federal funding ultimately won out and kept the Medicaid expansion from the final version of the budget. Col Owens, co-convener of the Southwest Ohio Medicaid Expansion Coalition, says the expansion’s absence is irresponsible, but he’s optimistic it will be passed in a stand-alone bill later on. Owens and other supporters of the expansion argue it will help insure hundreds of thousands of Ohioans and save the state money by placing more of the funding burden on the federal government.

One beneficiary of the state budget: low-rated charter schools.

Democratic State Sen. Nina Turner today announced her candidacy for Ohio secretary of state — a position she will attempt to take from Republican Jon Husted. Turner is a vocal critic of Republicans’ voting policies, which she says suppress voters, particularly minorities and low-income Ohioans.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Friday released the first Human Trafficking Statistics Report, which his office plans to release on an annual basis to continue spotlighting Ohio’s trafficking problem. Law enforcement identified 38 human trafficking victims in the last year, but that’s only a fraction of the estimated thousands of Ohioans, particularly youth and those “at risk,” who are reportedly trafficked and abused each year.

The Cincinnati Park Board won the National/Facility Park Design Award for Smale Riverfront Park. The award from the National Recreation and Park Association recognizes the park’s design, the inclusiveness of the design process and how the board met the local community’s needs for the park. This is just another major national award for The Banks; earlier in the year, the project won the American Planning Association’s 2013 National Planning Excellence Award for Implementation.

Some Republicans are not taking last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage well: State Rep. John Becker, a Republican from Clermont County, now says polygamy is inevitable.

Cincinnati is currently looking for a new police chief, and it already has 13 applications.

Ohio gas prices are down again this week.

Kasich says he’s not interested in running for president in 2016.

Apparently, the unmanned Voyager 1 spacecraft entered a scientifically funky region last summer.

Here is an explanation of what happens when stars collide.

 
 
by German Lopez 06.28.2013
Posted In: News, Health care, Budget at 03:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
medicaid

State Budget Rejects Medicaid Expansion

But Medicaid funding increased by $1 billion

Despite strong backing from Republican Gov. John Kasich, the Medicaid expansion didn’t make it into the final version of the two-year state budget passed by the Republican-controlled General Assembly on Thursday.

Col Owens, co-convener of the Southwest Ohio Medicaid Expansion Coalition, calls the expansion’s failure a disappointment, but he says he remains optimistic the expansion will be taken up in future legislation.

Under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the federal government is asking states to expand their Medicaid programs to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or an annual income of $32,499 for a family of four.

States are given a powerful financial incentive for doing so: For the first three years, the expansion is entirely paid for by the federal government. Afterward, the federal commitment is dropped to 90 percent, where it will indefinitely remain.

The federal government on average pays about 57 percent of Medicaid costs, while states pay for the rest. So the 90-percent match for the expansion is a uniquely lucrative deal.

But Republican legislators say they’re skeptical the federal government can afford such a large commitment to Medicaid, often calling the size of the expansion unprecedented.

Owens claims there is a precedent for the Medicaid expansion: Medicaid. He says the federal government has historically upheld its commitment to Medicaid, which insures 2.2 million Ohioans. There’s no sign that will stop any time soon, according to Owens.

To support his claim, Owens cites scoring from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), a nonpartisan organization that scores federal policy proposals to gauge their fiscal and economic impact. In July 2012, the CBO found repealing Obamacare, which includes the Medicaid expansion, would actually increase the federal deficit by $109 billion over 10 years, which means the health reform law is an overall fiscal gain for the federal government.

At the same time, analysts have found the Medicaid expansion would be fiscally beneficial for Ohio. Earlier this year, the Health Policy Institute of Ohio released an analysis that found the Medicaid expansion would insure nearly half a million Ohioans and save the state about $1.8 billion in the next decade.

Instead of being concerned about fiscal problems, Owens concludes opponents of the Medicaid expansion simply dislike the president, Obamacare and Medicaid.

Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans, pushes back at that notion. He points out the state budget will increase funding for Medicaid by $1 billion, allowing 231,000 more Ohioans to enter the system.

“When people say that we’re not doing anything for Medicaid, obviously that’s not true,” he says. “Certainly, we could have gone down the road of not funding that particular provision.”

The increased funding is going to people who are already eligible for Medicaid but, for whatever reason, aren’t currently enrolled. The federal government expects the new enrollees to sign up as a result of Obamacare raising awareness and education about health coverage.

In other words, the federal government already expects Ohio to pay for these Medicaid enrollees. Failing to do so would have likely violated the state’s Medicaid agreement with the federal government and, as Dittoe acknowledges when asked, resulted in penalties.

Although the Medicaid expansion is out of the state budget, there is a bill currently sitting in the House that would take up the expansion. Dittoe says that bill will likely be looked at in the early fall.

For legislators, that might be politically prudent: A poll released June 14 by the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati found 63 percent of Ohioans support the Medicaid expansion, with a margin of error of 3.3 percent. The University of Cincinnati's Institute for Policy Research conducted the poll for the Health Foundation between May 19 and June 2.

The $62 billion state budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 passed the Republican-controlled General Assembly on Thursday. It’s expected Kasich will sign it 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 to Limit Access to Abortion

 
 

 

 

 
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