THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY
The budget proposed this week by Ohio House Republicans affirms — if any doubt remained — whom these lawmakers primarily represent: Tea Party ideologues and corporate lobbyists. It will be up to more-responsible legislators and Republican Gov. John Kasich to enact a budget that meets Ohioans’ needs.
The House GOP plan eliminates the most important element of Mr. Kasich’s two-year budget proposal: expansion of the state’s Medicaid program to extend health insurance to another 456,000 poor Ohioans, including 25,000 in Lucas County. Evidently a futile repudiation of Obamacare means more to Republican lawmakers — and the people they are trying to impress — than a vital policy proposal by their own party’s governor.
The Medicaid expansion would bring $13 billion in federal aid to Ohio over the next decade — money that otherwise will go to other states. It would create jobs, increase tax revenues, and promote economic growth in our state.
It would reduce reliance by uninsured Ohioans on expensive emergency-room care — a practice that raises costs for households with private insurance and for health-care providers. To her credit, state Rep. Barbara Sears of Monclova Township is standing with the governor rather than her Republican colleagues on the Medicaid expansion proposal.
The House GOP budget includes $50 million more a year for mental-health and substance-abuse services. But that is a tiny fraction of what Ohio will lose if it does not pursue Medicaid expansion.
The House plan rejects another of Governor Kasich’s good ideas: a reasonable increase in the state severance tax on oil and natural gas extracted from shale wells. Money from such a tax could pay for the environmental and safety regulation needed to ensure that Ohio’s fracking boom proceeds responsibly. It also could provide revenue to help restore some of the huge state budget cuts of the past two years.
Instead, House Republicans are content to allow mostly out-of-state companies to maximize their profits from exploiting Ohio’s nonrenewable resources. Presumably, Columbus’ generous oil and gas lobby will show its appreciation.
The House GOP plan excludes Mr. Kasich’s proposal to reduce the 5.5 percent rate of Ohio’s sales tax by broadening its base to include a wide range of services — a potentially intriguing idea that the administration has not presented very will. It also rejects the governor’s ill-advised plan to give small businesses nearly a 50 percent tax cut.
But the House proposal shares Mr. Kasich’s desire for a further cut in individual income taxes. That would benefit the richest Ohioans far more than less-advantaged ones, and is not only unnecessary but counterproductive at a time of so many unmet needs for public services.
To appease anti-abortion extremists, the House Republican budget again takes a gratuitous slap at Planned Parenthood. The effort to deny the organization federal money for its family planning programs would diminish the good work Planned Parenthood does to improve women’s health care in northwest Ohio and the rest of the state.
The House GOP budget seeks to improve on Mr. Kasich’s insufficient plan to bolster the adequacy and fairness of state aid to public schools. Toledo Public Schools would get a 6 percent increase in aid next school year, rather than no increase under the governor’s plan.
The House proposal would increase aid to public universities and colleges as well. But these advantages are not nearly enough to offset the plan’s many destructive features.
House Republicans are likely to ram their budget bill through the chamber they control next week. When that sideshow — which is designed to influence next year’s elections more than this year’s fiscal debate — is over, meaningful budget work can begin.