Columbus- State Sen. Sean O’Brien (D-Bazetta) responded today to the state biennial budget bill, Amended Substitute House Bill (Am.Sub.HB) 49, which passed out of the Republican dominated legislature today along mostly party lines. Among other things, the version of that bill that will now be sent to Governor Kasich for his stamp of approval includes more than $2 billion in tax breaks for wealthy Ohioans over the biennium, reductions in funding for local governments (LGF), and cuts to Medicaid that, according to some estimates, will cause more than 500,000 Ohioans to lose their health insurance beginning in 2018.
“With the exception of the inclusion of additional funding for combating the scourge of opioid addiction in our state, the version of the budget that was forced through the legislature by majority Republicans today does little to benefit lower and middle class Ohioans,” said Sen. O’Brien. “While I was happy to be able to secure the inclusion of several amendments that, respectively, provide funding for education programs in my district and expand the terms under which funds for opioid drug addiction treatment programs may be used, the majority of the painful terms contained in this bill do little to benefit anyone but the very wealthiest in our state.”
Senate Democrats, O’Brien included, expressed frustration at the inclusion of tax cuts to so-called “pass through” entities (S Corps and limited-liability partnerships) which exempt the first $250,000 in personal income from taxation for wealthy Ohioans who qualify for it. According to separate independent assessments, Policy Matters Ohio and the Ohio Legislative Service Commission both issued reports showing that the continuation of these cuts, which were used by less than 12% of Ohioans in 2015, will cost the state of Ohio around $1 billion per year over the biennium, roughly the same amount as the budget revenue hole legislators were tasked with filling when it was revealed in May that tax revenues for the biennium were coming in much lower than expected.
“Rather than scrapping the ill-advised tax giveaway, which provides wealthy recipients an average tax break of merely $1,300 – nowhere close to enough to allow business investors to create new jobs as proponents of the giveaway assert – majority Republicans decided to make up the $2 billion hole faced by our state by taking money away from our already hurting local governments and depriving the most vulnerable of Ohioans the vital healthcare services provided by Medicaid,” continued O’Brien. “Our job as legislators is to give all Ohioans a fair shot at success, but the majority has instead decided that their role is to pick winners and losers in the Buckeye State.”
Other changes made by the majority to the budget reduce the amount of funding for nearly one-third of Ohio school districts over the biennium, limit the ability of the Ohio Department of Education to close underperforming charter schools, and retain restrictive setback distance requirements for wind turbine farms – effectively killing the expansion that industry in the state. For his part, Senator O’Brien secured the inclusion of amendments that provide $75,000 for the expansion of a welding program at Trumbull Career and Technical Center, $125,000 for the Trumbull County Educational Service Center to support the creation of a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art & design, mathematics) program, and expand the terms under which an addiction treatment program may be conducted.
Am.Sub.HB 49 passed through the Ohio legislature today and will now head to the governor’s desk for his approval. Governor Kasich is bound by the Ohio Constitution to sign the budget bill by June 30th, and has line-item veto power to remove terms he deems not in the best interest of the state. The final version of the bill, including the governor’s vetoes, will be available online beginning in July.