Ohio House Revises Kasich’s Budget Plan

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Income tax cuts are in. Medicaid expansion is out.

More money for schools is in. A sales tax on services is out.

Those are among dozens of judgment calls contained in an Ohio House rewrite of the two-year state budget introduced Tuesday.

The Republican-led chamber’s answer to GOP Gov. John Kasich’s spending blueprint spends about $2 billion less while retaining a 7 percent permanent income-tax reduction statewide and removing tax increases on professional services and drilling. Kasich has proposed a two-year budget plan of about $63.2 billion, beginning July 1.

The House’s $1.5 billion income-tax reduction over two years is less than the 20 percent Kasich had originally proposed, and excludes the governor’s proposed small-business tax cut.

“We just couldn’t get that done in this time frame and be comfortable with it,” said House Finance Chairman Ron Amstutz, who described a host of Kasich proposals that have been removed from the bill for lack of time to explore them.

The House dropped the Kasich’s plans to extend Medicaid coverage to thousands more low-income Ohioans under President Barack Obama’s federal health care overhaul.

Roughly 366,000 Ohio residents would be eligible for health coverage under the Medicaid expansion beginning in 2014. The state would see $13 billion from the federal government over the next seven years to cover those newly eligible.

Instead, representatives added $100 million over the two-year period to mental health and addiction services.

Asked whether the amount was sufficient to provide care to those who needed it, Amstutz said, “We don’t know the answer to that.”

The House bill directs other government funds to the needy, Amstutz said, including $150 million more for job services and readiness and $6 million more for job co-ops and internships.

A provision added to Tuesday’s bill also would effectively de-fund Planned Parenthood. Abortion rights groups fought the same move last session and vowed to work to defeat it again.

The House will hold hearings on the new version this week, and more changes could come before lawmakers vote on the bill. The Senate then would take up the measure.

On education, the House bill increases state aid school districts get for each student.

Kasich’s education budget proposed spending $15.1 billion on K-12 education over the next two years, boosting funds to districts that are lagging behind in property values and household incomes. The proposal prompted an outcry by superintendents who said it delivered big increases to some wealthy districts and no new dollars to some poor ones.

The House plan caps district funding increases to 6 percent a year and adds new money to meet a state mandate that students must know how to read before leaving third grade. Tweaks to Kasich’s formula – including an increase in per-pupil funding from $5,000 to $5,700 – distribute the money more fairly across the state, Amstutz said.

Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said the governor remains committed to advancing his proposals.