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Real work starts now on budget


Published: Sat, April 15, 2017 @ 12:00 a.m.

You can forget a lot of what you’ve heard about the biennial state budget up to this point, particularly the controversial stuff.

Because a lot of the latter is going to get tossed or otherwise amended in coming days, as lawmakers take their first swipes at spending plans for the next two fiscal years.

As if changes weren’t already afoot, Gov. John Kasich and the Republican heads of the Ohio House and Senate announced in recent days that they would need to cut about $800 million over the biennium from the overall spending proposal, following softer-than- expected state revenues.

That leaves a whole lot of questions that’ll be answered and re-answered over the next two months.In the meantime, here are a few things you’re probably going to hear repeatedly in coming weeks:

Other States Are Doing Worse: Yes, the administration is reducing its revenue projections, but, Kasich and other Republicans will tell you, Ohio hasn’t yet had to slash services or dip into its reserves.

“It’s important to point out that there were 19 states in America that cut their budgets, and some very significantly, over the last fiscal year,” Kasich said. “We were able to avoid that. Two-thirds of the states now are experiencing revenue issues.”

Tax Cuts In Question: Republican lawmakers already made it clear that they didn’t support parts of Kasich’s tax reform package, so the entirety of his tax-shifting proposal was already in doubt.

But it’s hard to envision a budget bill without some sort of net tax cut.

“I believe you can have an income-tax cut based on tax reform,” Kasich said. “… That means some go up and others go down. … I would still like to see the income tax go down, but this is going to be something that’s a challenge for the Legislature. But in terms of a net tax cut, it is unlikely that that will remain ...”

TAX-HIKE OPPOSITION

Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said he won’t support a net tax hike.

“I’m not going to raise taxes,” he said, adding, “Since I’ve been here, every major budget bill that we voted for has included some kind of net cut. If you see changes on the tax side, I would expect that those changes would result in a net cut, as well… In terms of expanding the sales tax base and those things, the legislature’s already rejected that twice before, so I’m not sure even if the numbers were going well that we would be enamored with that specific proposal.”

Recession: Late last year, Kasich told lawmakers that the state could be on the verge of a recession.

Democrats have been using the phrase ever since as evidence that tax cuts and other policies under the administration and the Republican-controlled Legislature aren’t working.

“Now, after having it their way without compromise for six years has brought us to the ‘verge of recession,’ schools, communities, the opioid fight, health care for developmentally disabled people and children and other essential services will be defunded because politicians in Columbus don’t have the courage to do what’s needed to recession-proof our state,” Rep. Emilia Sykes, D-Akron, said in a released statement. “Instead of shoring up self-made shortfalls with rainy day money that was essentially stolen from schools and communities, Ohio will likely continue on its terrible economic trajectory with fewer resources to fend off this deteriorating economy.”

Marc Kovac is The Vindicator’s Statehouse correspondent. Contact him at mkovac@recordpub.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.


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