COLUMBUS — Before signing a $62 billion, two-year budget into law tonight, Gov. John Kasich used his line-item veto pen to strike language seen as a barrier to progress on expanding Medicaid while talks continue on the broader expansion the governor has sought.
But he left intact all of the controversial provisions seen as restricting abortions as well as language allowing local government bodies to meet secretly behind closed doors in executive session when discussing economic incentive packages for businesses.
The governor left immediately after signing the budget without taking questions from reporters about his vetoes.
The budget promises a net $2.6 billion net tax cut, consisting chiefly of a 10 percent across-the-board income tax for all taxpayers over three years and a 50 percent cut on the first $250,000 earned by small businesses.
“I’m proud of the tax cuts because I think it’s another installment in Ohio’s comeback,” Mr. Kasich said.
But it also comes with some trade-offs, including a hike in the state sales tax from 5.5 cents on the dollar to 5.75 cents. The budget also draws the line on its subsidization of local property tax bills, saying the state will no longer pay the first 12.5 percent on any new levies that voters approve beginning with those on the ballot this November.
The budget also holds $717 million more over the next two years for K-12 schools, an 11 percent increase. It does not full make up, however, for the cuts schools suffered in the current budget, in part because of the expiration of one-time federal stimulus dollars.
Pro-choice advocates had placed all their hopes in stopping the abortion restrictions from taking place on Mr. Kasich, but Mr. Kasich allowed all of the provisions to stay.
Those provisions included language making it tougher for abortion clinics to get emergency care transfer agreements that they must have with a local hospital in order to keep their licenses by prohibiting publicly funded hospitals from entering into such arrangements.
A last-minute addition that requires a doctor to performing abortions to first perform an ultrasound to detect a fetal heartbeat and then offer to let the woman seeking an abortion hear or see that heartbeat. Failure to following this procedure could lead to criminal prosecution of the doctor.
The budget also places Planned Parenthood at the end of the line when it comes to distributing Ohio’s share of federal family planning funds.
Mr. Kasich had already angered some conservatives in his party by proposing the Medicaid expansion and for refusing to endorse an effort to make Ohio a right-to-work state. It seemed unlikely the pro-life governor would take them on again over the abortion restrictions.
Mr. Kasich also chose not to exercise his line-item veto authority to strike language that would allow local government bodies to meet behind closed doors in executive session to discuss economic incentive packages for businesses. The governor had already defended such action when it comes to the private non-profit corporation JobsOhio that was his top priority when he entered office in 2011.
The budget Mr. Kasich signed still contains many of the priorities he spelled out in his own budget proposal that started this process more than four months ago. His Republican colleagues in the legislature removed his proposed expansion of Medicaid eligibility to those earning up to 38 percent over the federal poverty level under the federal health care law, but they also added a prohibition that would have blocked the state’s acceptance of federal funding to cover 100 percent of the cost of those earning up to 33 percent over the poverty line, a population for whom federal law already mandates coverage.
In his veto message, Mr. Kasich said this would lead to an increase in uncompensated costs and a shift of those costs onto businesses and individuals with health insurance.
“To give the Ohio General Assembly and the executive branch maximum flexibility on this issue, this veto is in the public interest,” he wrote.