Ohio Budget Passes Senate, Heads To House For Friday Vote
State senators on Thursday passed a sweeping $71.2 billion, two-year budget that provides an income tax cut for Ohioans, funds public schools and seeks to change health care policies.
The House is planning to vote on the measure Friday. The deadline for Republican Gov. John Kasich to sign the bill into law is Tuesday. Some things to know as the measure moves toward his desk:
Legislative leaders say the budget plan invests roughly $1 billion more in K-12 education than the last two-year period, with no district getting less than what they got this year. A negotiating panel of state lawmakers also provided an additional $20 million each year for student assessments.
The spending plan would freeze tuition at public colleges and universities for two years and prohibits the institutions from requiring students to live in on-campus housing if they reside within 25 miles of the school. It also would require institutions to propose ways to reduce student costs by 5 percent.
The spending plan continues Kasich's expansion of Medicaid, though it makes other changes to the health program. It restores Medicaid coverage for pregnant women up to 200 percent of poverty and for certain women in a breast and cervical cancer program. The measure also seeks to create a health savings account program for some beneficiaries, which would require federal approval.
House Republicans scrapped major elements of Kasich's tax proposal from the spending bill in April, including increases on certain business and sales taxes, cigarettes, and oil and gas drilling. The governor had wanted to use the proposed increases to fund a larger income tax reduction.
The measure instead provides a 6.3 percent income tax cut beginning in tax year 2015. That would lower the top rate to just below 5 percent.
Under a compromise agreement, the spending bill also would boost the cigarette tax from $1.25 to $1.60 a pack. Lawmakers tweaked a small business tax credit to provide a 75 percent income tax deduction on the first $250,000 in 2016 and a 100 percent income tax deduction on the first $250,000 in 2017. Filers would then be subject to a 3 percent flat tax in each fiscal year after certain thresholds are met.
For the second consecutive state budget, the GOP-dominated General Assembly is revising policies that could have large consequences for abortion providers.
A regulation change that a GOP-panel inserted into the bill early Thursday could be problematic for Toledo's last abortion clinic. It would require that a "local" hospital used for emergency patient transfers from abortion facilities be no farther than 30 miles away. The hospital used by Toledo's Capital Care Network is in Ann Arbor, Michigan, about 50 miles away. The clinic had gone out of state to find a hospital to partner with after in-state public hospitals were prohibited from signing the mandatory transfer agreements with abortion clinics. A Lucas County judge recently ruled that the state exceeded its regulatory authority in imposing certain restrictions on the Toledo clinic.
A separate change would give facilities two months to obtain state permission to operate without a patient transfer agreement or must close. A request by Women's Med Center in Dayton for such a variance to the requirement has been pending for two years.
OTHER POLICY CHANGES
The Ohio Newspaper Association is asking Kasich to veto language in the bill that would eliminate journalists' access to concealed handgun records. State law currently allows reporters to see the permit documents but not copy them.
The proposal also sets aside money for police training, eliminates special elections in February and prohibits independent health care and child-care workers under contract with the state from unionizing. Lawmakers dropped a provision that would have allowed disabled veterans to ride transit buses and other public transportation for free and a provision to ease concealed carry rules for active duty members of the military.