Kelly: Ohio House Pushes Unfinished, Unbalanced State Budget Off On Senate
After six years of GOP tax-shifting, Ohio's broken economy brings GOP promise of $800M in cuts
May 02, 2017
 
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Before new state economic indicators come out Thursday, the Ohio House today passed a version of the state’s two-year budget, House Bill (HB) 49, that remains hundreds of millions of dollars out of balance, if not more. The vote comes a little more than two weeks after Gov. Kasich and GOP legislative leaders announced they would need to cut close to $1 billion from the bill to maintain a stable, balanced budget. Still, the final version of House Bill 49 approved largely along party lines today fell over $400 million short of being a balanced budget bill by that standard. 


Democratic members argued that passing an unbalanced budget not only violated their constitutional oath, but was fiscally irresponsible and would jeopardize Ohio’s already weak economy.


“Ohio is now dealing with the hard reality that too many of my constituents deal with back home – living paycheck to paycheck,” said State Rep. Alicia Reece (D-Cincinnati). “There is no guarantee that the next paycheck will be as high as the last one, and recent revenue numbers prove that to be true in Ohio. We needed to cut $800 million but Republican leaders only conserved a portion of that, leaving a gapping money hole for our counterparts in the Senate to deal with. This is an “if” budget— “if” the projections hold.”


“The budget passed today reflects years of fiscal mismanagement under GOP leadership and falls short of the investments needed to turn our economy around,” said State Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati). “This budget is more of the same burden-shifting to the middle class and local communities. This budget does not provide for long-term solutions in education, healthcare and the workforce that will drive our economy and quality of living forward.


“Years of tax cuts were supposed to jump start the Ohio economy and make life better for middle class Ohioans. Instead, too many hardworking Ohioans struggle to make ends meet and create a better life for themselves and their families. Economic stability for people and families in our state builds stronger communities and a stronger state for all of us,” continued Kelly. “I am proud of the initiatives proposed by my Democratic colleagues to invest directly in the families and workers who make our state a great place to live and work.”


Democratic lawmakers argued on the House floor that the past six years of GOP tax-shifting policies have not delivered the jobs and economic growth that Republicans promised, but instead harmed middle class families and directly contributed to the state’s current fiscal crisis. Ohio’s job growth has trailed the national average for 51 consecutive months, Ohio families bring home thousands of dollars less than the average household in America, and close to 30 percent of Ohio jobs are low wage, paying less than poverty wages.


“Because of failed tax shifting policies, the state has less money today than what was expected six years ago – less money to devote to schools, making college affordable, fighting the opioid epidemic, and investing in our communities,” said House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “Instead of making our state stronger for generations to come, working people and families are feeling the squeeze of these upside-down economic policies, and now the results are becoming real for lawmakers who swore a constitutional oath to pass a balanced budget.”


Democratic lawmakers offered several amendments on the House floor, including proposals to provide $500 million in real funding increases for opioid addiction treatment. The lawmakers also called for a bipartisan oversight commission, The Budget Management and Stabilization Commission, to investigate the cause of Ohio’s missing money and to ensure the state budget is structurally balanced and stable.


“We are concerned that failing to invest in schools, college affordability and our communities will only make Ohio’s economic outlook worse,” said Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), the lead Democrat on the House budget committee. “We take our fiscal and constitutional responsibility to the people and families of Ohio seriously, and believe the legislature could be risking further economic and financial instability by passing a state budget built on bad assumptions.”


Among other Democratic amendments were:


- Family First for Economic Stability Act, a provision that would provide equal pay and paid family leave for all Ohio families.


-Government Accountability and Anti-Corruption Initiative, legislation that would create criminal penalties for state contract rule-rigging and prohibit the Administration’s appointed inspector general from a guaranteed career extension.


-College Affordability Omnibus, a duo of college affordability measures that cap tuition at a three-percent increase and increase Ohio’s College Opportunity Grant.


-Stabilizing Medicaid Expansion, a proposal that would put Ohio’s Medicaid expansion population into Ohio Revised Code to prevent political game-playing with access to lifesaving healthcare services.


-Get to School Safely, a proposal to restore transportation funding to K-12 Ohio schools.


-A House for Every Ohioan, a tax rebalancing bill to undo Republican property tax cost increases by 12.5 percent while increasing the Homestead Exemption eligibility and credits for retirees and senior citizens.


House Bill 49 now goes to the Ohio Senate for additional scrutiny. The Republican-controlled legislature and Gov. Kasich must approve a balanced budget by June 30 to avoid government shutdown.  

 
 
 
  
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