Freeze on new enrollment under Medicaid stays in state budget

A conference committee in the Ohio legislature is expected to work out differences between Senate and House versions of the state budget. Both houses are scheduled to vote tomorrow.
A conference committee in the Ohio legislature is expected to work out differences between Senate and House versions of the state budget. Both houses are scheduled to vote tomorrow.

House and Senate to vote Wednesday on budget that includes graduation requirement changes for class of 2018.

A freeze on enrollment in Ohio’s expanded Medicaid program was approved by the Ohio legislature’s conference committee working on the two-year state budget Tuesday night.

The committee approved its report by a 4-2 party-line vote and sent it to the House and Senate for floor votes on Wednesday before the budget goes to Gov. John Kasich.

The committee also rejected efforts to repeal a small business tax break.

Democrats, and some Republicans, say the tax exemption is costing more than expected and some of the companies using it are not creating jobs or making capital investments. It costs the state $1.1 billion annually in lost revenue.

Sen. Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton, said repealing the tax exemption would be a tax increase inconsistent with efforts to help small businesses. He said the tax break is needed to help create a climate for businesses to “feel good about the state of Ohio” and that he had talked to a small business person who told him he had used the tax break to hire two new employees.

RELATED: Ohio Senate OK’s softer graduation rules for Class of 2018

RELATED: State may reduce a tax break for small businesses

Medicaid changes: The conference committee approved the Senate's freeze on Medicaid expansion enrollment as of July 1, 2018, a move Democrats say will harm Ohio residents left with no health insurance.

In 2013, Ohio’s Medicaid coverage was expanded to more people as part of the Affordable Care Act. That expansion now covers more than 725,500 people.

Education: The committee also agreed to change graduation requirements for students in the Class of 2018 who don't pass new state tests. They can still graduate if they meet certain other criteria.

Wright-Patterson: The committee allocated some funding to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, providing $250,000 in each of the two budget years to help pay for financing infrastructure improvements in preparation for possible Base Closure and Realignment Commission Actions.

It’s less than the $2 million Wright-Patt supporters in the House had added to their budget after the Ohio Military Facilities Commission gave $5 million to facilities in Toledo and Mansfield but nothing to Wright-Patt.

“I think that in the fiscal strain that the state is in we’re happy to get any money in that will go to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base,” said State Rep. Niraj Antani, R-Miamisburg.

RELATED: $2 million added to state budget for Wright-Patt after panel snub

The six-member Ohio legislature’s conference committee resolved differences between the $132.7 billion 2018-19 budget approved by the Ohio Senate last week and the $122.9 billion version approved by the Ohio House.

The Senate-passed budget has a 2.7 percent increase in spending of all funds for fiscal year 2018, compared to a 4.8 percent decrease in the House budget. For fiscal year 2019 the Senate increases spending by 1.5 percent and the House by 1.3 percent.

RELATED: Senate passes $132.7B state budget which freezes Medicaid enrollment

Legislators are grappling with a $1.05 billion projected revenue shortfall over the biennium, which is being covered through budget cuts and other changes.

There were hundreds of line items that differed between the two bills, along with the actual spending amounts.

RELATED: Panel begins work to fill $1.05 billion state budget revenue shortfall

The Ohio Constitution requires that the budget be balanced and in place by July 1. Kasich would need to decide to sign it or veto items in the budget by June 30. The legislature could vote to override his vetoes any time during the current General Assembly session, said Emmalee Kalmbach, spokeswoman for Kasich.

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Democrat amendments go down

As the committee went through amendments Tuesday night they approved those offered by Republicans and tabled the ones from Democrats, including ones that would have increased funding for schools, human services safety net programs and the battle against opioid addiction. Republicans control the legislature and the conference committee is made up of four Republicans and two Democrats.

“A budget that’s built on broken economic assumptions and ideology - instead of fact and reality - isn’t a real budget at all – it’s fake,” said Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, Ranking House Democrat on the conference committee, in an emailed statement. “One-time money and shell games are a recipe for economic instability and even deeper financial problems for hardworking taxpayers in the coming months and years.”

John Fortney, spokesman for Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, defended the budget.

“We are grateful for the committee’s work and firmly believe this is a balanced budget that is responsible to the taxpayers,” Fortney said.


Ohio lawmakers took action on the state budget into the night Tuesday. Check our Ohio Politics Facebook page and our @Ohio_Politics Twitter page for the latest developments. Also, tell us what issues you want the state to focus on.

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