It took nearly three hours for the Republican-dominated House to pass its version of the budget, with 12 Republicans voting against it, and four Democrats breaking with the minority party and supporting it. And there were a lot of unnoticed items buried in it.
The budget eliminates Gov. John Kasich’s 17% income tax cut and the tax hikes that would have offset it, and adds millions more to fighting the opioid crisis and to schools. There are districts that will still get less money in the upcoming budget than they got in the current one, but it’s unclear how many. The budget requires Medicaid expansion spending to be reviewed by the state Controlling Board every six months – that’s the panel that Kasich went to to approve Medicaid expansion. It also adds $100 million for nursing homes, restoring cuts that Kasich had made. And Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire) notes another item buried in the budget. “For some reason, we’re extending the term of the inspector general, who’s appointed by the governor. And this bill extends that current appointment, I believe, till 2021, and I’m not sure why we’re doing that.”
Kasich’s budget had required businesses to file their local net profits taxes through the state instead of with municipalities, but the House version made that optional. And now the final version erases a fee that would have been attached to that. The House budget also sets aside a million dollars for counties for new voting machines. The budget also requires charter schools to publish enrollment data and employee background check results on their websites, as well as class curricula and reading lists for each grade.
The budget also allows the Speaker of the House to appoint members of the Oil and Gas Leasing Commission. It’s thought this could open the door to fracking in state parks, because right now the governor has the authority to appoint those commissioners. And Kasich has said he doesn’t support drilling or fracking on state lands.
Democrats put forward several amendments on the House floor – among them, taking money from the rainy day fund and JobsOhio for the opioid crisis and exempting some conditions from the work requirement on Medicaid expansion that the state will have to seek from the federal government. Some were tabled with remarks that they’re ideas that need further discussion – others were rejected with little comment.