by German Lopez
37 days ago
Posted In: News
at 11:37 AM | Permalink
Governor, Democrats, mental health advocates criticize Ohio House Republicans’ budget
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
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).
by German Lopez
38 days ago
Health-care transparency is low, Medicaid expansion to stand alone, streetcar job approved
In Cincinnati, an ankle MRI can range in price from $367.46 to $2,865.42, but weak transparency laws make it difficult for consumers to compare prices.
But to make up for the lack of transparency, some companies are
providing compiled price and quality data to paying employers. A
previous report from Catalyst for Payment Reform and the Health Care
Incentives Improvement Institute gave 29 states an “F” for health-care
price transparency, Ohio and six other states a “D” and only New
Hampshire and Massachusetts an “A.”Ohio House Republicans killed Gov. John Kasich’s Medicaid expansion plan, but Ohio Democrats are planning to introduce the expansion as a standalone bill.
The expansion, which was one of the few aspects of Kasich's budget that
Democrats supported, would have saved the state money and insured 456,000
Ohioans by 2022, according to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. CityBeat covered the Medicaid expansion and other aspects of Kasich’s budget proposal here.
In two 5-4 votes yesterday, City Council approved the
executive director position for the streetcar project and a repeal on a
“double dipping” ban. The city says it needs the measures to
hire John Deatrick, the current manager of The Banks project, to head
the streetcar project, but critics argue the city should not be making
hires when it’s threatening to lay off 189 cops and 80 firefighters to
balance the budget — even though the hire is through the capital budget
used for the streetcar project, not the general fund that is used to
employ cops and firefighters. CityBeat wrote more about the new position and the double dipping ban here.
This week’s commentary from CityBeat: “Religious Birth Control Exemptions Are a Double Standard.”
City Council also approved the Music Hall lease, which will enable extensive renovations. CityBeat covered some of the original details of the renovation plan when it was first announced here.
StateImpact Ohio has some information on how Ohio House Republicans’ plan for school funding differs from Kasich’s proposal.
The big difference is Kasich’s plan was based on property taxes, which
ended up being regressive, while the House plan is based on the average
cost to educate each student, which makes it so less schools,
particularly poor and rural schools that fell under Kasich’s plan, have their funding reduced. The House plan also expands performance-based pay and
school choice, which Policy Matters previously found may hurt students and teachers. CityBeat covered Kasich’s proposal in further detail here.
Policy Matters Ohio posted an interactive map
showing the county-by-county benefits of a state earned income tax
credit. The credit, which mostly benefits low- and middle-income earners
with children, is already used by the federal government and some
states to progressively reward employment.
Freedom Ohio and Equality Ohio will debate the Family
Research Council today over whether Ohio should legalize same-sex
marriage. The debate will be streamed here. CityBeat covered Freedom Ohio’s same-sex marriage legalization efforts here.
The U.S. Postal Service will drop its threats to stop delivering on Saturdays after Congress denied the action.
A new study found humans tend to think strangers are staring at them.
Headline: “Why Are Monkey Butts So Colorful?”
by German Lopez
39 days ago
Posted In: News
at 12:35 PM | Permalink
Policy Matters Ohio releases county-by-county map detailing tax credit
As part of an effort supporting a state earned income tax credit (EITC), Policy Matters Ohio unveiled an interactive map today that shows the potential benefits to taxpayers in different counties.For Hamilton County, about 19 percent of tax-filing households would qualify for the program. A 10-percent EITC would return about $15.6 million to households in Hamilton County, or about $225 on average for each qualifying filer. A 20-percent EITC would return about $31.2 million to Hamilton County, with each qualifying filer getting about $451 on average.EITC is a tax credit that goes to working families, typically favoring low- and middle-income earners with children. It is already used by the federal government and several states to progressively reward employment.CityBeat previously covered Policy Matter's efforts and how EITC could replace Gov. John Kasich's tax proposals, which would expand the sales tax and cut income taxes by 20 percent across the board, here.Since then, Ohio House Republicans have rejected most of Kasich's tax proposals, instead downsizing the plan to a 7-percent across-the-board tax cut with no sales tax expansion.Here is the interactive map, courtesy of Policy Matters:Learn About Tableau
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 10, 2013
City Council’s Budget and Finance
Committee on April 8 moved forward with two controversial measures that
will create an executive project director position for the streetcar
project while allowing the city to rehire retirees while still paying
by German Lopez
39 days ago
Posted In: Health
at 09:20 AM | Permalink
House reworks Kasich budget, pro-choice group criticizes budget, city asks for stay on ruling
Ohio House Republicans released their own budget proposal yesterday that does away with many of Gov. John Kasich’s proposed policies.
The budget gets rid of the Medicaid expansion, the oil and gas
severance tax and the sales tax expansion. It also reduces the state
income tax cut to 7 percent, down from 20 percent in Kasich’s plan. The
amount of schools getting no increased funding under a new school
funding formula decreased from 368 in Kasich’s plan to 175 in the House
plan, addressing issues that selective wealthy schools were benefiting
too much from Kasich’s proposed school funding formula. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal in detail here.
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio is criticizing the Ohio House’s
proposed budget for defunding Planned Parenthood and redirecting federal
funds to anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs). A study from NARAL
Pro-Choice Ohio, which is highly supportive of abortion rights, found 47
percent of CPCs gave inaccurate medical information regarding a link
between mental health problems and abortion, and 38 percent provided
false information about the connection between breast cancer,
infertility and abortion, among other findings.
The city of Cincinnati is asking Judge Robert Winkler to stay his previous ruling
so the city can use emergency clauses to expedite legislation. City
Solicitor John Curp says the city needs emergency clause powers in case
of natural disasters and to advance economic development deals that need
to be implemented before 30 days. The city previously used emergency
clauses to avoid a 30-day waiting period for implementing laws, but
Winkler ruled the clauses do not nullify the right to referendum,
effectively eliminating the use of emergency clauses because the city
now always has to wait 30 days in case of a referendum effort. The
ruling was given after City Council used an emergency clause to expedite the lease of the city’s parking assets
to the Port Authority to help balance deficits and fund economic
With the support of Councilwoman Yvette Simpson, City Council is looking to study
youth poverty, homelessness and other issues to better prioritize city
policy. The $175,000 study, which will be mostly privately funded, will
look at multiple factors affecting the city’s youth, including crime,
poverty, homelessness and educational opportunities. Simpson says the
study will be the first comprehensive look at the city’s youth.
Democratic Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown’s bill to end Too Big to Fail was leaked to the press Friday, and The Washington Post has an analysis on what it does here.
While the bill doesn’t explicitly break up big banks, it does severely
limit big banks in a way that may encourage them to downsize. Brown will
co-sponsor the bill with Republican La. Sen. David Vitter, making it a
bipartisan compromise. CityBeat covered Brown’s efforts in further detail here.
Ky. Sen. Mitch McConnell’s re-election campaign is complaining someone bugged a meeting
to listen in on staff’s plans for the 2014 election. Jesse Benton,
campaign manager for McConnell, said in a statement, “Today’s
developments ... go far beyond anything I’ve seen in American politics
and are comparable only to Richard Nixon’s efforts to bug Democratic
Party Headquarters at the Watergate 40 years ago.” During the meeting,
McConnell’s staff alluded to labeling potential opponent Ashley Judd as
“unbalanced” by bringing up past mental health problems. Meanwhile,
recent polling found McConnell is no lock for re-election.
As the media ramps up fears of another Korean war, many analysts feel there is no chance of war. Meanwhile, South Koreans seem more bored than concerned with the North’s threats.
Scientists discovered evidence of “dark lightning,” which may emanate from thunderstorms alongside visible lightning.
by German Lopez
40 days ago
Local casino tops revenue, streetcar could get new director, Medicaid expansion to fail
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino topped state casino revenues last month,
translating to $1.4 million in casino tax revenue for the city in
March. If the trend holds — a huge if, considering March was opening
month for the Horseshoe Casino — the city would get $16.8 million a
year, which would be above previous estimates from the state and city
but below estimates presented in mayoral candidate John Cranley’s budget plan.
Cranley and other city officials say casino revenue could be used to
avoid laying off cops and firefighters to balance the budget, but the
city manager’s office says it wouldn’t be enough.Two City Council decisions yesterday will allow the current project manager for The Banks to take over the streetcar project.
The two 5-4 decisions from City Council came in the middle of a tense
budget debate that could end with the layoff of 344 city employees,
including 189 cops and 80 firefighters. But John Deatrick, who could be
hired as executive director of the streetcar project as a result of the
measures, says his salary would come from the capital budget, which is
separate from the general fund that needs to be balanced in light of
structural deficit problems.
House Republicans are poised to reject
Gov. John Kasich’s proposed Medicaid expansion. The expansion, which
was part of Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget proposal, would have saved the
state money and insured 456,000 Ohioans by 2022, according to the Health
Policy Institute of Ohio. But it would have done so mostly with federal
funds, which state legislators worry will not be there years down the
line. The Medicaid expansion was one of the few aspects of Kasich’s
budget that state Democrats supported. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget in further detail here.
PolitiFact Ohio gave Kasich a “Pants on Fire” rating
for his claim that his transportation budget and Ohio Turnpike plan “would make sure we have lower tolls than we’ve had through the history
of the turnpike.” PolitiFact explains: “Yes, the bill aims to keep tolls
from rising faster than the pace of inflation -- a practice that would
stand in contrast to KPMG’s findings from the past 20 years. And, yes,
the bill freezes tolls for 10 years on a small, targeted cross-section
of turnpike users. But not only are higher tolls a part of Kasich’s
plan, they are integral to the concept. The increased revenue will allow
the state to issue bonds to finance other projects. Furthermore, the
inflation cap is not written into the law, and the state has an out from
the local EZ-Pass freeze.”
Melissa Wegman will be the third Republican
to enter the City Council race. Wegman is a first-time candidate and
businesswoman from East Price Hill. She will be joining fellow
Republicans Amy Murray and incumbent Charlie Winburn.The struggling Kenwood Towne Place will be renamed Kenwood Collection as part of a broader redesign.
One program in President Barack Obama’s budget plan would task NASA with pulling asteroids to our moon’s orbit,
where the asteroids could then be studied and mined. The Obama
administration says the program will only involve small asteroids, so
big, killer asteroids will not be purposely hurled towards Earth.
New evidence suggests some two-legged dinosaurs were strong swimmers, further proving that unless we have extra asteroids to cause an extinction event, we might want to leave them dead.
by German Lopez
41 days ago
Posted In: News
at 02:26 PM | Permalink
City Council committee passes measure allowing “double dipping”
City Council’s Budget and Finance Committee moved forward
with two controversial measures in two 5-4 votes today that will allow the
city to rehire retirees while still paying their pensions and create an
executive project director position for the streetcar project.One of the measures repeals the city’s ban on “double dipping,”
which means rehired retirees will be able to
simultaneously cash in a salary and pension payments. The measures will allow the city to hire John Deatrick, the
current project manager for The Banks, to head the streetcar project.
The city could not previously hire Deatrick because he formally retired
from the city and is currently receiving pension payments.
The city says Deatrick has the experience and expertise
necessary to help bring the streetcar project’s costs in line, but
critics say the city should not be hiring someone for the streetcar
project when the city is considering laying off 344 employees, including
189 cops and 80 firefighters, to balance the budget.
Deatrick says the layoffs are unfortunate, but he
emphasizes that they are occurring through the general fund. If he was
hired, Deatrick’s salary would be paid through the capital budget, a
completely separate fund that the city uses for major development
projects. Because of legal and traditional constraints, capital budget funds generally can’t be used to balance the general fund.
“The capital budget generates projects that bring money into the general fund,” Deatrick says.
Deatrick’s point is similar to an argument often touted by City Manager Milton
Dohoney Jr., who says the city needs to economically grow out of structural budget
deficits. Dohoney and other city officials say the true cause of Cincinnati’s
structural budget imbalance has been the city’s dwindling population in
the past decade, and bringing people back to Cincinnati through economic
development projects, including the streetcar, is a better approach than austerity that would cause more
layoffs and economic pain.
Others, particularly Democratic mayoral candidate John
Cranley, aren’t convinced. In a press statement that used vocabulary that often comes from streetcar opponent COAST (Coalition Opposed to
Additional Spending and Taxes), Cranley said, “Since day one the
streetcar has been a poorly conceived, poorly managed boondoggle that is
now costing the city even more money. The fact that this being done
while police officers and firefighters are facing layoffs is a slap in
the face of those who risk so much to make sure that our city is safe.”
But the city says Deatrick’s involvement could help bring
the streetcar project’s costs down, and Deatrick seems to agree. “That’s
been my whole ‘shtick,’ ” Deatrick says, before citing numerous aspects
of the streetcar project he would be interested in looking at to
bring costs in line.Opponents have pointed to the streetcar’s multiple problems, including unexpected costs and delays, as proof the project has been doomed from the start. But Deatrick says it’s normal for big projects to deal with hurdles, and he cautions he would expect to deal with more rising problems if he takes the job.
“Any time you try to build something — even out in the
middle of a corn field — you’re going to have unexpected, unanticipated
issues,” he says. “These things happen, and that’s what project
management is all about.”
Deatrick says he has long supported the streetcar, and he
plans to expand the project up to the University of Cincinnati and the
rest of the uptown area if he’s put in charge.
While Deatrick has discussed heading the streetcar project with
city officials, no formal offers have been made yet. Still, City Council members
and Dohoney repeatedly named Deatrick as a potential candidate in the
special session of City Council today.
Some council members said they were concerned the double-dipping measure will be
used for more similar hires in the future, which could raise
hiring costs as the city pays for multiple employees’ salaries and
pensions at the same time.
Democratic council members Roxanne Qualls, Laure
Quinlivan, Yvette Simpson, Cecil Thomas and Wendell Young supported the
measures. Democrats Chris Seelbach and P.G. Sittenfeld, Republican
Charlie Winburn and Independent Chris Smitherman voted in opposition.
Deatrick’s resume shows experience going back decades.
Since June 2008, Deatrick has headed The Banks project, which recently
won the American Planning Association’s 2013 National Planning
Excellence Award for Implementation (“Bank On It,” issue of Jan. 16).
Before that, he worked as deputy director and chief
engineer at the District of Columbia Department of Transportation from
May 2002 to August 2007, where he says he helped manage parts of the
D.C. streetcar, among other projects.
Prior to his work at D.C., Deatrick started his career as an urban development
technician at Cincinnati’s Department of Transportation and Engineering on September 1973. He helped with many projects around the city before eventually rising to the director position in
November 1999, where he remained until May 2002.
The streetcar is one of the few issues dividing Democratic
mayoral candidates Cranley and Qualls, making the 2013 mayoral race
another important election for the future of the project (“Back on the Ballot,” issue of Jan. 23).
by German Lopez
41 days ago
Seitz compares energy efficiency to Stalin, Music Hall lease coming, casino revenues today
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, State Sen. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, compared Ohio’s energy efficiency laws
to former Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s five-year plan. Seitz is
leading the charge on a review of the state’s energy efficiency and
renewable energy standards, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.
The review has been supported by Akron-based First Energy, an energy
company that has long opposed Ohio’s energy efficiency standards. But
environmental groups say they’re worried the review will water down a
law that has brought clean energy and jobs to the state.
Cincinnati is poised to approve
a lease of Music Hall that will allow renovations to move
forward. The plan would lease the Music Hall for 75 years to carry out
renovations that will likely cost between $50 million and $100 million,
with the city contributing about $10 million. CityBeat covered the plan when it was first announced here.
In the midst of Cincinnati’s heated budget battle, the
Ohio Casino Control Commission will release its monthly revenue estimates for
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino today. City officials estimated that about
$9 million to $11 million will be available at a City Council meeting
Thursday — seemingly the only point of agreement in a testy exchange over the city’s budget
that left city leaders with no consensus on local
budget woes. Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley and others have
proposed using casino revenue to help balance the city’s budget without
layoffs, but Cranley’s $21 million estimate has drawn criticism for being unrealistic.
The Ohio House is likely to propose alternatives
to Gov. John Kasich’s budget plan this week. State legislators have
criticized Kasich’s plan for favoring the wealthy, raising taxes for
many Ohioans and expanding Medicaid with the use of federal funds. CityBeat covered the governor’s plan in further detail here.
National parks around Ohio are cutting hours and hiring
because of sequestration, a series of across-the-board budget cuts that
began March 1 after congressional inaction. The cuts have forced the
James A. Garfield National Historic Site at Mentor, Ohio, to close on
Sundays, which means about 30,000 tourists will be unable to visit this
year, according to Todd Arrington, chief of
interpretation and education at the park.
Ohio’s rural speed limit is being changed to 70 mph, and signs will soon reflect that.
Margaret Thatcher, Great Britain’s only female prime minister, died at age 87.
A fusion rocket could shoot people to Mars in 30 days.
by German Lopez
45 days ago
Posted In: News
at 03:34 PM | Permalink
Still no budget deficit-solving consensus in sight
If Cincinnati does not lease its parking assets to the
Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority, it will have to pay
off a $35 million deficit in the fiscal year 2014 budget through other means, but
those means were disputed at a special session of City Council today.
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. and other
administration officials say the city will have to carry out Plan B,
which would lay off 344 city employees, including 189 cops and 80
council members Chris Seelbach, P.G. Sittenfeld, Charlie Winburn and
Chris Smitherman claim there are other ways — casino revenue and cuts
elsewhere — to balance the budget.
The meeting got testy after a few council members called
the city administration “disingenuous” for framing Plan B and the
parking plan as the only two budget options, prompting Mayor Mark Mallory to
slam council members for attempting to pin the city’s budget woes on the
“I don’t think anyone in the administration wants to see
their colleagues laid off,” Mallory said. “The administration makes a
recommendation to this mayor and to this council. The final decision
makers are the elected leaders.”
He added, “What’s disingenuous is to create a crisis and then
criticize the administration for its response to the crisis when those
responsible for dealing with the crisis are the elected leaders. It
would be like an arsonist setting a building on fire and then
complaining about how long it took the fire department to get there and
what equipment they used to put out the fire.”
Lea Eriksen, the city’s budget director, said the ideas
she heard at the special session today would not be enough
to close the budget gap.
Throughout the discussion, the city administration
repeatedly dismissed ideas presented by council members as not enough to overcome the city’s $35 million deficit and avoid layoffs. By the city
administration’s admission, even Plan B would only close about $26
million of the projected deficit.
How that budget gap is closed may come with additional
expenses. Eriksen said the budget gap may reach $45 million if the city carries
out Plan B because the city would also be forced to pay for accrued
leave and unemployment insurance.
Still, Assistant City Manager David Holmes
city could balance the deficit without Plan B or the parking plan, but
the numbers must “add up” and would require direction from City Council.
When the discussion came to casino revenues, Holmes said
the city administration feels “uncomfortable” projecting casino revenue
because the state’s projections have trended downward in the past few
years. In 2009, the state government estimated Ohio’s casinos would take
in $1.9 billion a year, but that projection was changed to $957.7
million a year in February.
Eriksen said the city estimates between $9
million and $11
million in casino funds will be available to the city. She said even if
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino hits its $100 million goal, the city
will not be able to get the $21 million previously touted by Horseshoe
Casino General Manager Kevin Kline because the money is pooled with
money from other casinos around the state, which has fallen far below
projections, before it’s distributed to cities
When asked about shifting parking
meter revenue to the general fund to help balance the budget, Eriksen
said doing so would ultimately be a “wash” because of expenses currently
attached to parking meter revenue.
Seelbach suggested making more cuts through the
priority-driven budgeting process. Eriksen explained Plan B does cut
programs that were poorly ranked by the process — the mounted patrol
unit, arts funding and recreation centers were a few examples she cited. But
only relying on programs ranked poorly by the priority-driven budgeting process would “decimate” departments and
programs that the city deems essential, she said.
In the original 2013 budget proposal put forward by the city
manager, mounted patrol was cut, but Seelbach lobbied for the
Multiple council members brought up traveling and training
costs as potential areas to cut, but Eriksen said the city
administration had not considered further cuts in those areas because
the leftover expenses are currently used to get certifications that city
employees “need to do their jobs.”
Councilman Charlie Winburn, the lone Republican on City Council, asked the city administration
if they tried to balance the budget without layoffs. Eriksen replied,
“Yeah, that was called the parking plan.” She added without the parking
plan, it would be “mathematically impossible” to balance the budget
When Winburn suggested city employees should take salary
cuts, Eriksen said such cuts would require extensive negotiations with
unions because about 90 percent of the city’s employees are unionized.
In November, Winburn was one of the prominent supporters of giving the city manager a raise and bonus.
Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a Democrat running for mayor,
said she would be open to using any revenues possible for reducing the
budget gap, but she said City Council must acknowledge the harsh budget
realities facing the city — further re-emphasizing points she made in a blog post Sunday.
John Cranley, another Democrat running for mayor, has said
in the past that the threat of layoffs is “the boy crying wolf.”
Cranley released his own budget plan
on March 28 that he says would avoid layoffs and balance the budget
without the parking plan, but some critics say the budget’s revenue
estimates are unrealistic.Eriksen said Cincinnati has run structurally imbalanced budgets since 2001, but city officials say deficits have been made much worse by state cuts in local government funding carried out by Gov. John Kasich and the Republican legislature since 2010 (“Enemy of the State,” issue of March 20).
City Council approved the parking plan in a 5-4 vote on
March 6 that would lease the city’s parking assets to the Port Authority
to raise funds that would help balance the deficit for the next two
fiscal years and pay for new development projects, including the
construction of a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).
Opponents of the parking plan, who say they fear it will
lead to rate hikes, filed their petitions for a referendum effort today.
It is so far unclear whether they have the 8,522 verified signatures
required to put the issue on the November ballot.
by German Lopez
51 days ago
Critics say mayoral candidate’s proposal is flawed
In response to the March 28 announcement that City Manager
Milton Dohoney Jr. has begun implementing a plan that will lay off cops
and firefighters, mayoral candidate John Cranley released his own budget plan that claims to avoid layoffs and the implementation of the city’s parking plan. But critics say Cranley’s budget is unworkable.
Cranley’s budget uses casino revenue, parking meter
revenue and various cuts to raise nearly $33.8 million — more than the
$25.8 million necessary to balance the budget without a parking plan.
Cranley’s critics have taken to social media to claim
Cranley’s revenue projections are “fantasy.” They also claim the
across-the-board budget cuts ignore the city’s priority-driven budgeting
process, and there’s no certainty that such broad cuts can be carried
out without laying off city employees.
Whether avoiding layoffs is possible through Cranley’s proposal remains unclear, even according
to Cranley’s two-page budget plan, which reads, “We need to identify
only roughly $26 million to cover the 2014 deficit and will reduce some
of these cuts to ensure that there are no layoffs.”
Cranley says there is no certainty that the cuts could be
carried out without any layoffs, but he says he would do everything he
can to prevent personnel cuts: “I believe that people should take pay cuts. … If I
cut the office of the council members’ staff, I can’t force an
individual council member not to lay someone off, but I would certainly
encourage them to reduce salaries as opposed to layoffs.”
In government budget terms, a 10-percent cut to any
department is fairly large — particularly for Cincinnati’s operating
budget, which uses 90 percent of its funds on personnel. In comparison, the cuts from the 2013 sequester, the across-the-board federal
spending cuts that President Barack Obama and fellow Democrats say will
lead to furloughs and layoffs around the nation, ranged between 2
percent and 7.9 percent, depending on the department.
The cuts make up one-third of Cranley’s proposal, while the rest of the money comes from casino and parking meter revenue. For his casino revenue numbers, Cranley cites Horseshoe
Casino General Manager Kevin Kline, who told City Council he
expects the casino to raise $21 million each year, but city officials
have said they only expect $10 million a year.
Cranley insists the extra $11 million will come to fruition.
He says, “I would put my track record of being the chairman of the
budget committee for eight years, which balanced budgets without
layoffs, ahead of the people at the city that estimated the costs of the
Just in case, Cranley says his plan purposely overshoots the $25.8 million deficit to leave some leeway in carrying out cuts. But without the extra $11 million, Cranley’s plan would only raise about $22.8 million — $3 million short of filling the budget gap.
Jon Harmon, legislative director for Councilman Chris
Seelbach’s office, says the city and state were originally expecting a
lot more revenue from the state’s new casinos, but the legalization of
racinos, which enabled racetrack gambling, has pushed revenue projections down.
In February, Ohio’s Office of Budget Management estimated
the Horseshoe Casino will raise $75 million in tax revenue for the city,
state and schools, down from a 2009 estimate of $111 million, after
seeing disappointing returns from Ohio’s already-opened casinos. The
local numbers reflect a statewide revision downward: In 2009, the state
government estimated Ohio’s casinos would take in $1.9 billion a year,
but that projection was changed to $957.7 million a year in February.
Even if Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino does much better
than the state’s other casinos, the way casino revenue is collected and
distributed by the state makes a $21 million windfall unlikely,
according to Harmon. Before the state distributes casino revenue to
cities, counties and schools based on preset proportions, the money is
pooled together, which means all the casinos would have to hit original
estimates for Cincinnati to get $21 million — an unlikely scenario,
according to Harmon.
The other major revenue source in Cranley’s budget is $5.2 million in parking meter revenue, which the city manager’s office told CityBeat in February
is usable for the general fund after months of insisting otherwise.
Some of that money is already used in the general fund under current law, but the parking plan would remove that revenue altogether and replace it with new revenue. Cranley says his plan would forgo the parking plan and secure the $5.2 million in the general fund.
Among other cuts, Cranley’s proposal would eliminate some of
the money that goes to software licensing. With the way the cut is
outlined in Cranley’s two-paged budget proposal, it’s unclear whether it
would hit all software licensing or just some of it, but Cranley says his plan is only reducing $531,554 of about $2.6 million, which he says
still leaves a $1 million increase over 2012’s software licensing
“I’m telling people what my priorities are: police, fire,
parks, recreation, garbage collection, health department (and) human
services,” he says. “I believe that elected officials should not be
paying consultants from Denver to tell people in Cincinnati what their
priorities are. I believe that elected officials should tell the voters
what their priorities are.”Cranley’s comments are critical of the the city’s priority-driven budgeting process, which ranked city programs based on feedback gathered through local surveys and meetings with Cincinnati residents.
With or without the parking plan, Cranley says the city is
facing structural deficit problems. He says his plan permanently
fixes those issues, while the parking plan would only eliminate the deficit for the next two fiscal years.
Cranley and Libertarian mayoral candidate Jim Berns oppose
the city’s parking plan, while Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, another
Democratic mayoral candidate, supports it.
The parking plan, which was approved by City Council on March 6,
would lease the city’s parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati
Development Authority to help balance the deficit for the next two
fiscal years and fund development projects, including a downtown grocery store (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27).
But the semi-privatization plan is being held up in court. Most recently, Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler ordered a permanent restraining order on the plan pending a referendum effort. The extended injunction sparked criticism from city officials, who say delays will lead to fiscal and procedural problems.CityBeat’s coverage of other plans:“Parking Stimulus”: Explains the parking plan, which was proposed by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. and supported by City Council.“City Manager Lists Alternatives to Parking Plan”: Explains Plan B, the alternative plan put forward by City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. that would lay off 344 city employees, including 80 firefighter and 189 police positions.“Seelbach Announces ‘Plan S’ Budget Alternative”: Explains Councilman Chris Seelbach’s proposed alternative to the parking plan.