Amid a more than $1 billion financial shortfall, Ohio’s legislative Republicans pushed state budget negotiations closer to the brink Tuesday and today with eleventh hour horse-trading over a Medicaid lockout and complex money maneuvers, leaving Gov. John Kasich less than 48 hours to review the state budget, House Bill 49, before the start of the new fiscal year.


“This budget is a disaster. Ohio has some very real problems which are growing as our economy continues to stagnate,” said state Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain). “This budget continues the same failed policies that have gotten us here in the first place: lack of state funding making college unaffordable, and underfunded schools and communities. These polices haven't helped Ohio and now Republicans want to take away future access to healthcare from some half a million Ohioans.”   


To shore up the state’s deteriorating financial outlook, Republican lawmakers raided numerous special funds, ended local grant programs, delayed payment of certain bills and counted on a glowing economic forecast the next two years – though Ohio spent the last 54 months trailing the nation’s job growth.


“While the rest of America is recovering from the global recession, six years of Republican mismanagement have held us back from solving real problems like attracting better-paying jobs, reducing healthcare costs, and strengthening our children’s schools,” said House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “Our economy continues to underperform and people at home are feeling it. The state is on a downward spiral to recession.”


GOP lawmakers even loosened future access to agency funds, like the Bureau of Worker’s Compensation fund, should the state budget bust before the end of the next fiscal year. The unusual move has been widely criticized and is believed by House Democrats to be illegal and unconstitutional.


“A budget that’s built on broken economic assumptions and ideology - instead of fact and reality - isn’t a real budget at all. It’s fake,” said the lead Democrat on the House budget panel, state Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire). “One-time money and shell games are a recipe for economic instability and even deeper financial problems for hardworking taxpayers in the coming months and years.”


Republicans also propped up the state’s ledger by taking $35 million in local community funding used to fight opioid addiction and locking working people out of expanded Medicaid healthcare coverage. If federal approval is granted for the Medicaid lockout, the state estimates at least half-a-million people would lose healthcare.


“People will get sicker, people will die, and families will suffer just because they've committed the deadly sin of being poor in a state without enough good jobs,” added Ramos. “This is a choice. It wasn't ‘them’ it wasn't ‘they,’ it wasn't ‘Columbus’ who is taking away healthcare from half a million people who they are paid to represent. It was every yes vote by every Republican who puts the economic health of the wealthy ahead of the physical health of the poor. This legislature should be ashamed of this heartless act. I know I am. That's why I voted ‘no’.”


During the months-long budget process, House Democratic lawmakers called on Republicans to come together on economic and tax reforms that would put $200 million in real money against opioid addiction while walking back six years of tax-shifting that have seen Ohio trail the nation in job creation and shift to poverty-wage jobs. Democrats also said the state could better attract new businesses and good-paying jobs by rebuilding local communities and prioritizing education funding for every student to earn the skills they need to compete.


Though Republican lawmakers are seeking a six-year federal waiver for a new Medicaid tax that would keep counties and transit authorities from losing $200 million per year, local communities and schools have still had to ask local taxpayers for more money after the state cut almost $2 billion and $1 billion, respectively, during the last six years. 

 
 
 
  
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