Curb Power Of Governor

Between 275,000 and 366,000 Ohioans will begin receiving free health care insurance soon, as a result of Gov. John Kasich’s decision to bypass the General Assembly on the issue. The move may have been legal – that will be decided in court – but it raises a serious question about separation of powers in state government.

Only half the states have gone along with the Obamacare requirement they expand their Medicaid programs. Ohio became the 25th on Monday.

But majorities in both houses of the General Assembly oppose the move.

Kasich devised a plan whereby he could use his power as governor to expand Medicaid, by convincing members of the Ohio Controlling Board to go along. By a 5-2 vote, they did so.

Technically, the board’s vote was merely to accept additional federal funding, more than $2.5 billion, to pay for new Medicaid enrollees. That cleared the way for Kasich to expand the program.

An Ohio-based group, the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, already has vowed to challenge the action in court. Some Republican lawmakers have said they will join the lawsuit.

Legislators opposed to expansion worry about the cost to taxpayers. Though the federal government will pay the full cost for new enrollees during the first three years, Ohio will be required to pay 10 percent – at least $200 million a year – after that.

And many legislators worry the federal government, where thoughtful leaders are trying to find ways to cut spending, will increase the state share in the future.

Though some conservatives believe Kasich’s action can be overturned in court, we have our doubts. He may well have found a legitimate loophole to expand Medicaid.

Still, many Ohioans probably do not agree that any governor should have that much power, especially when the General Assembly has turned him down on an initiative. The fact President Barack Obama has set an example in that regard, thumbing his nose at Congress with regularity, is no excuse.

If the courts uphold Kasich, a clear need to alter state law and, perhaps, the Ohio Constitution, will be presented. Governors in the future should not be permitted to balloon the size of state government.

And while the matter is wending its way through the courts, lawmakers should be looking for a loophole of their own to prevent expansion of Medicaid.