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Biennium budget falls short



Published: Sat, July 20, 2013 @ 12:00 a.m.

COLUMBUS

There’s plenty of stuff packed into the $62 billion biennial state budget that will affect you.

Plenty of other stuff was in the legislation at one time but removed before Gov. John Kasich’s pen hit the page.

Like that short-lived abstinence amendment, which would have blocked school lessons that encouraged “students to experiment with sexual activity.”

It was all the rage for a few days in April after it was added to the budget by House Republicans and then quickly abandoned.

And remember Kasich’s sales-tax plan? He wanted to lower the sales-tax rate but broaden it to cover a larger range of products and services.

Again, the proposal prompted an outcry from opponents and was summarily removed from the bill, though GOP lawmakers did include a different sales-tax plan in the final version.

There are many other provisions you probably heard about at some point during the months-long budget debate that were included and then excluded along the way.

Some won’t be spoken of again this session; others will remain part of the Statehouse discourse heading into next year’s election campaign.

Medicaid

One of the latter is Medicaid. You can’t go through a week on Capitol Square without some group having a press conference or a rally or comparable gathering to chastise the Republican lawmakers who blocked an expansion of health care benefits for the needy.

Kasich wants the expansion and has made it clear he’ll continue to advocate for it.

“We believe we still have ample time to get this done,” he told reporters late last month. “... I feel very strongly about this, but the Legislature has a right to act on this. ... I respect their reasons why they have decided to do this separately. And I’m very hopeful that before the end of this year that we will see movement on this and that we can have something significant accomplished.”

Something else you’ll continue to hear about in coming months (possibly years) is an increase in tax rates on oil and gas produced via horizontal hydraulic fracturing or fracking.

The governor offered a severance-tax increase last year as part of his mid-biennium review, saying out-of-state companies reaping the rewards of eastern Ohio’s energy resources should be forced to pay a little more in severance taxes.

Proponents have said repeatedly that Ohio’s rates are lower than those of other states with expanding fracking activities, and increasing Ohio’s rates won’t drive companies away.

But Republican lawmakers have balked at the hike, voicing concerns about how it would affect an industry that offers much promise to areas of the state that have not experienced economic prosperity for decades.

Despite the legislative opposition, Kasich said he’s going to keep pushing for an oil and gas tax increase, regardless of how long it takes — even if it means waiting until new GOP leaders are in charge of the chambers.

“I think we wait for [House Speaker Bill] Batchelder to retire,” Kasich joked late last month. “I think there’s been some real progress made on the severance tax. ... I’m not giving up on that. I know the business community feels strongly about it.”

Marc Kovac The Vindicator’s Statehouse correspondent. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.


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