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State budget in state of flux


Published: Sat, March 18, 2017 @ 12:00 a.m.

In the next few weeks, the Ohio House will amend Gov. John Kasich’s executive budget proposal, stripping out that severance-tax increase and other stuff members don’t like and adding stuff they do.

The chamber likely will vote on its version of the two-year spending plan by early May, sending it over to the Ohio Senate for comparable consideration and more additions and subtractions.

In any other odd-numbered year, this would all be pretty standard stuff — check the economic projections, change some policies, cut some taxes, etc.

But this isn’t just any odd-numbered year. This is 2017, and all sorts of uncertainty surround state finances, given ongoing discussions at the federal level about the repeal and replacement of former President Barack Obama’s health care law, other proposed budget cuts and a less-than-rosy financial outlook at the state level, where money isn’t flowing into the state’s coffers at levels originally projected by the administration.

That could all make for an interesting June, during what should be the final weeks of debate on the next biennial operating budget, as the Ohio House and Senate work out their differences and negotiate a final bill to send to Kasich.

Consider: Monthly state budget numbers haven’t been very assuring. The administration has said repeatedly that the next biennial budget is going to be tight, and it could very well get tighter.

OBAMACARE REPEAL impact

Also, repeal of Obamacare and a replacement plan that does not include funding for medical and related services for an expanded-eligibility population of needy Ohioans could be devastating on more than a medical front.

Kasich is quick to point out that Medicaid funding is being used to treat residents addicted to heroin and other drugs and to assist those with mental health issues.

“It’s tough economic times,” the governor said, in response to a question about whether the state could make up the $1 billion-plus that would be needed to make up for a federal Medicaid cut.

“There will be a lot of people that will go without coverage, and it won’t be good. Emergency rooms will be flooded again with more people who are not getting primary care or consistent care. That’s a prescription for negative.”

If the federal government does pull funding for Ohio’s expanded Medicaid-eligible population, don’t expect the Republican-controlled Legislature to make up the difference, since majority members weren’t keen on the idea in the first place.

“To be frank, that’s going to be challenging,” House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger , R-Clarksville, told reporters.

That said, it doesn’t sound like Rosenberger is being kept awake at night, concerned about what the federal government is going to do.

“I’m not going to sit around and worry about what Congress may or may not do,” he said. “We’re going to continue to go forward with our budget as best we can with what we know. As things progress and change, we’ll be prepared to correct our budgets.”

He added, “I think we’ll have plenty of time to make decisions that are necessary. We could be well into [a new general assembly] by the time they need to make a decision.”

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


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