Governor signs budget, rejecting 22 provisions
Chrissie Thompson reports:
Gov. John Kasich Sunday night vetoed a provision in the two-year state budget that would have barred Ohio from preparing to expand Medicaid coverage under the federal Affordable Care Act.
The Republican governor supports expanding Medicaid coverage to include up to 366,000 uninsured, low-income Ohioans, though many lawmakers in his own party oppose it. Kasich’s veto allows the state to be ready to accept federal money for the expansion Jan. 1, if the General Assembly at some point authorizes it. Discussions on that point continue.
Kasich let stand abortion restrictions added to the budget, including a requirement for doctors to do external examinations – likely ultrasounds – to search for fetal heartbeats before performing abortions. The doctors must then tell their patients what they found.
The provision was criticized by abortion-rights advocates for being added to the budget at the last minute, without hearings or debate.
In total, Kasich used his line-item veto power on 22 items.
“Ohio is healing, without any doubt,” he told reporters gathered at his Statehouse office to watch the signing. “There is no reason that Ohio cannot retake its place on the top of the mountain.”
Kasich did not take questions on the vetoes.
The 6,000-page, $62 billion budget took effect today at 12:01 a.m. It includes Kasich’s 50 percent tax cut on the first $250,000 of income for small business owners, his plan to tie aid to state colleges to their graduation rate, a watered-down version of his income-tax cut and a nod to his plan to raise revenue through the sales tax. All Ohioans get a 10 percent income-tax cut.
Internet sales tax among other vetoes
Along with the Medicaid veto, Kasich nixed provisions that:
- Collected sales tax on Ohio residents’ Internet purchases from out-of-state retailers. Other states that have taxed these purchases have had to endure expensive court battles, according to a memo justifying the vetoes.
- Allowed chiropractors to clear student athletes to play after they’ve had concussions.
- Forced schools to hire a certain number of teachers for gifted students.
- Gave extra quality bonus money to nursing homes. Kasich vetoed this same provision in last year’s midway review of the last budget.
- Removed spider monkeys from a list of dangerous – and, therefore, regulated – wild animals.
- Made it easier for utility companies to pass on costs of cleaning up contaminated gas manufacturing sites. Last year, Duke Energy had requested permission from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio to raise gas and electric rates by an average of $10 per month to clean up two sites in Cincinnati. PUCO rejected the request and instead said Duke could charge 35 cents per month.
Language added to the budget was intended to broaden state rules so that Duke could pass on more clean-up costs to customers. But the language went too far, applying to any contaminated or out-of-use site instead of just a gas manufacturing plant, according to the veto memo. The General Assembly can now rewrite the language in a separate bill.
The spending plan also includes several other provisions added by the Republican-controlled General Assembly, some of which Kasich was under heavy pressure to veto.
Republican-added measures against abortion remain
Besides the fetal heartbeat requirement, Republicans added other anti-abortion measures to the budget.
It puts Planned Parenthood at the back of the line for non-abortion-related family-planning money, used for health-care procedures. Under the budget, public hospitals also can’t have patient-transfer agreements with abortion clinics, forcing the clinics to try to make agreements with private hospitals, many of which have religious affiliations, or risk closure. Kasich left those provisions intact.
Ohio Right to Life called the budget “the most pro-life in history.”
“Low-income pregnant women will now receive greater care, and their unborn child will have a much greater opportunity to be born healthy,” said Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, in a statement.
Stephanie Kight, president of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio, said in a statement: “Ohioans want doctors and medical experts to make medical decisions and set health regulations, not politicians like John Kasich.”
Republican lawmakers also had sought to prohibit the state Medicaid office from preparing to expand coverage. General Assembly Republicans have delayed voting on any kind of Medicaid legislation, much less a bill that authorizes the expansion.
State health officials have said they need six months to get ready to accept new Medicaid members. Federal money becomes available Jan. 1 and starts to decrease three years later. Without Kasich’s veto, the administration would have had to wait for authorization from the General Assembly to start getting ready, putting Ohio at risk to lose some of the federal money available under the program.
Kasich rejected the measure “to give the Ohio General Assembly and the executive branch maximum flexibility on this issue,” according to the veto memo.
Senate Minority Leader Eric Kearney, D-North Avondale, had sent Kasich a package of red pens and an “Easy button,” urging him to veto the Medicaid prohibition.
“Obviously, that’s a big victory for the Senate Democratic caucus,” he said Sunday night. But he said he was “mystified” that Kasich kept the anti-abortion provisions intact, especially the one that would require an external ultrasound to find a fetal heartbeat. “That’s a standard that takes Ohio out of the mainstream and really puts us on the fringe.”
The General Assembly has a year and a half to seek to override any of Kasich’s vetoes, but appears unlikely to do so. Lawmakers can also change the budget’s effects by passing separate laws in the fall or through the mid-biennial budget review.