Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Tax cut is loser in Medicaid fix

COLUMBUS - An attempt by conservative Republican lawmakers to protect the size of a potential tax cut next year failed, as the House of Representatives yesterday approved a $648 million bailout of the Medicaid program.

State Rep. John Carey (R., Wellston) said the Medicaid shortfall, which will require $249 million from the state and $398 million from the federal government, is rooted in at least three factors.

Many families that have moved from welfare to work mistakenly thought they weren't eligible for Medicaid, the health care plan for lower-income residents, Mr. Carey said. Those families are getting back on Medicaid because of county and state efforts to get the word out to uninsured families, he said.

In addition, the cost of caring for elderly and disabled Medicaid recipients has increased, and nursing home costs this year are climbing at twice the rate of the state's original estimate, Mr. Carey said.

The bill, which Governor Taft is expected to sign into law, would require the state budget director to cut spending at least $125 million. The remainder of the state's share would be taken from tax dollars the state expects departments will not spend.

State Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Urbana) said using money from the general fund would reduce the size of a potential budget surplus next year. Budget surpluses have enabled the state to approve temporary income tax cuts totaling $2.2 billion over the past five years.

Mr. Jordan proposed $160 million in spending cuts while taking $88 million from a “rainy-day” fund held by the state Department of Jobs and Family Services to cover the Medicaid shortfall.

“That's the clear choice. We either make the government pay with what it already has or we make the taxpayers pay,” Mr. Jordan said.

But state Rep. Don Mottley (R., West Carrollton) said the “rainy-day” dollars, which total about $100 million, should be used only during a recession. He said spending that money could mean a tax increase if Medicaid costs skyrocket as poor people are forced back on the welfare rolls.

The House voted 71-19 to table Mr. Jordan's amendment, avoiding a yes or no tally on the amendment. They then voted 82-9 to approve the bailout bill.

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