Friday, May 25, 2018
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Ohio lawmakers urging changes in tax, Medicaid

State Senate committee hears budget proposals

COLUMBUS — Outnumbered more than 2 to 1, Senate Democrats on Wednesday called for canceling a House-passed income tax cut for those earning more than $106,000 a year and using that money to funnel $508 million more to K-12 schools.

“This plan does what the governor promised but failed to deliver,” Sen. Nina Turner (D., Cleveland) said. “It gives more money to poorer school districts.”

The Senate Finance Committee heard from its subcommittees that have studied portions of the budget, but the reports provided little indication of the direction the Republican majority plans to go in areas of education, health care, taxes, and the environment.

The chamber is expected to vote in early June on its version of the $61.5 billion, two-year budget passed last month by the House.

The Democratic education proposal, which would retain the House-passed 7 percent income tax cut for other individuals and small businesses, stands little chance of making the budget. But it demonstrates the rhetoric framing the votes ahead.

Sen. Randy Gardner (R., Bowling Green), chairman of the education subcommittee, provided little clue on what the Senate’s version of a K-12 school funding formula will look like.

“Almost all of the prospective plans are going to have to some degree guarantees, and they’re going to have caps in them,” he said. He was referring to guarantees that no school district will receive less money than they received in the prior budget and caps limiting how much new money other schools, most likely in the suburbs, can get despite growing enrollment and other factors.

He didn’t mention it in his testimony, but the committee is expected to strip out of the bill a controversial House amendment that would mandate that a public university charge a student from outside the state cheaper in-state tuition if they provide that student with documentation used to establish Ohio residency for voting purposes.

Sen. Edna Brown (D., Toledo) has proposed an amendment to add $1.7 million to the pot of state funds to fight harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie. Republicans were already talking about providing more funding, but it’s unclear how much.

Democrats also continue to push for expansion of Medicaid eligibility as the Republican governor proposed but couldn’t salvage in the House budget.

Although the budget has already left the House without Mr. Kasich’s Medicaid expansion proposal included, state Rep. Barbara Sears (R., Monclova Township) introduced a bill Wednesday designed to find some middle ground.

It directs the state director of Medicaid to expand income eligibility for the program to those earning up to 38 percent over the federal poverty level. That’s the level proposed under the new federal health care law, which Ms. Sears otherwise opposes.

The bill assumes the federal government will pay the full freight for those new enrollees for the first three years as it has promised.

The coverage would come with strings attached as the new enrollees would be required to meet cost-sharing, work, and drug treatment requirements.

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