by German Lopez
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
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.
State Republicans lower taxes for the rich, defund Planned Parenthood and try to block health care for the poor in Kasich-signed budget
1 Comment · Wednesday, July 3, 2013
With Gov. John Kasich’s signature,
Republican state officials on June 30 passed a budget that alters taxes,
schools, Medicaid and abortion services in Ohio, putting the state in a
controversial and politically charged path for the next two years.
by German Lopez
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
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
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
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
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
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
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:51 PM | Permalink
Republican legislators claim they’re protecting “sanctity of human life”
Republican state legislators are using the two-year state
budget to pass sweeping anti-abortion measures — and they’re proud to
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
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
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
“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
3 Comments · Wednesday, June 26, 2013
Against all the odds, naysaying and
obstructionism it’s faced, Cincinnati’s streetcar project is moving
by German Lopez
Streetcar moves forward, sewer compromise hits impasse, Kasich's approval at all-time high
The streetcar project is moving forward
following yesterday’s votes from City Council’s Budget and Finance
Committee, which approved increased capital funding and accountability
measures that will keep the public updated on the project’s progress.
The increased funding fixes the project’s $17.4 million budget gap by
issuing more debt and pulling funding from various capital projects,
including infrastructure improvements around the Horseshoe Casino. The
accountability measures will require the city administration to report
to City Council on the streetcar's progress with a timeline of key
milestones, performance measures, an operating plan, staffing
assessments and monthly progress reports.
At the same committee meeting, council members failed to carry out a repeal of “local hire” and “local preference” laws,
which was part of an earlier announced compromise
between the city and county that would allow work on sewer projects to
continue. At this point, it’s unclear whether the Hamilton County Board of
Commissioners will repeal the funding hold on sewer projects. The
commissioners passed the hold after City Council modified its
“responsible bidder” law in May. The city says the laws encourage local
job creation and training, but the county claims the rules favor unions
and impose extra costs on Metropolitan Sewer District projects.
Republican Gov. John Kasich’s approval ratings hit an all-time high of 54 percent
in a new Quinnipiac University poll, helping him hold a 14-point lead
against likely Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald. “All in all, at this
stage, Kasich has done a pretty good job appealing to voters across the
state,” said Quinnipiac's Peter Brown. “FitzGerald remains pretty much
an unknown to most Ohioans, with only one in four voters knowing enough
about him to have formed an opinion. The election is a long way away,
but the next stage will be the race to define FitzGerald, positively by
the candidate himself and negatively by the Kasich folks.”
The Cincinnati office for the Internal Revenue Service also targeted liberal groups,
particularly those who used the terms “progressive” and “occupy.” The
IRS has been under scrutiny in the past few months for targeting
conservative groups by honing in on terms such as “tea party” and
Ohio gave tax incentives
to four more Cincinnati-area businesses. Overall, 15 projects received
the breaks to supposedly spur $379 million in investment across Ohio.
Miami University banned smoking in cars on campus and raised tuition.
Headline: “Columbus man rips off his penis while high on drugs.”
Here is a history of red panda escapes.
A study found people find others more attractive after getting a shock to the brain.
by German Lopez
Ohio unemployment unchanged in May, budget overhauls taxes, streetcar vote Monday
Ohio’s unemployment rate was 7 percent in May, unchanged
from April and down from 7.3 percent in May 2012, according to Bureau of
Labor Statistics data released today by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Although the number of unemployed increased by 5,000 between April and May, the number of
employed also increased by 32,100, keeping the rate relatively stable.
Most sectors tracked in the report, including government, gained jobs.
The final version of the state budget would cut income taxes and create a state-based earned income tax credit,
but it would also hike the sales tax and make changes to property taxes
that effectively increase rates. Republican state legislators rolled
out the tax plan yesterday as a compromise between the Ohio House and
Senate plans. The final version looks a lot more like Gov. John Kasich’s
original tax proposal, which left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio criticized for favoring the wealthy. The budget must be signed by Kasich by June 30.
City Council is expected to vote on the streetcar project’s $17.4 million budget gap on Monday. The gap is a result of construction bids coming in much higher than expected, and solving it would involve making cuts for a slew of capital programs,
including infrastructure projects around the Horseshoe Casino. The cuts
will all come from the capital budget, which can’t be used to fund
operating budget expenses like police and fire because of limits established in
Three days after City Manager Milton Dohoney signed an
agreement leasing the city’s parking meters, lots and garages to the
Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, the Port Authority still hadn’t signed the lease, and it remains unclear when the agency plans to do so. City spokesperson Meg Olberding told CityBeat
she’s confident the Port Authority will sign the lease. But the delays
have raised questions about whether there truly will be local control
over the city’s parking assets through the Port Authority, given that
the agency is already going against the wills and assumptions of the
city government by failing to sign the lease.
City Councilman Chris Seelbach announced on Twitter
that he and Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel will release a
joint statement on the city’s “responsible bidder” ordinance later today. The city
and county have been clashing over the ordinance, with county
commissioners most recently putting a hold on all Metropolitan Sewer
District projects. CityBeat covered the conflict in greater detail here.
Federal data released this week shows Ohio has some of the weakest gun laws and, as a result, is a top source for guns for crimes committed in other states.
Construction is expected to cause some downtown ramp closures and restrictions next week, so prepare for delays or a change in commute.
A Japanese scientist may have to grow his human organs in pigs.
The world’s first 3-D printed battery is as small as a grain of sand.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 03:28 PM | Permalink
Tax plan also creates earned income tax credit, changes property taxes
Republican state legislators today rolled out a major tax overhaul
that would cut Ohio income taxes, but the plan would also increase and
expand sales and property taxes.
Legislators plan to add the tax changes to the $61.7
billion two-year budget. The final plan is being touted as a
merger of the original proposals from the Ohio House and Senate, but
none of the proposed tax hikes in the revised plan were included in the
original tax proposals from either chamber.
Relative to rates today, the new plan would cut state
income taxes across the board by 8.5 percent in the first year of the
budget’s implementation, 9 percent in the second year and 10 percent in
the third year. That’s a bump up from the House plan, which only included a
7-percent across-the-board income tax cut.
The Senate’s 50-percent tax deduction for business owners
would be reduced to apply to up to $250,000 of annual net
income, down from $750,000 in the original plan. Under the
revised plan, a business owner making a net income of $250,000 a year
would be able to exempt $125,000 from taxes.
The plan would also create an earned income tax credit that would give a tax refund to low- and moderate-income working Ohioans.
To balance the cuts, the plan would hike the sales tax
from 5.5 percent to 5.75 percent. Some sales tax exemptions would be
eliminated, including exemptions for digital goods such as e-books and iTunes
The plan would also make two major changes to property taxes:
First, the state would not pay a 12.5-percent property tax rollback on new property tax levies, which means future levies for schools, museums and other services would be 12.5 percent more expensive for local homeowners.
Second, the homestead tax exemption,
which allows disabled, senior and widowed Ohioans to shield up to
$25,000 of property value from taxes, would be graduated over time to be
based on need. In other words, lower-income seniors would still qualify
for the exemption, while higher-income seniors wouldn’t. Current
exemptions would remain untouched, according to House Finance and
Appropriations Committee Chairman Ron Amstutz.
The final tax plan is a lot closer to Gov. John Kasich’s
original budget proposal, which left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio
criticized for disproportionately favoring the wealthy (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20).
The budget must now be approved by the conference committee, House, Senate and Gov. John Kasich in time for a June 30 deadline.