Ohio Budget, Including Tax Cuts and Anti-Abortion Measures, Heads to Governor's Desk

Photo by Karen Kasler / Ohio Public Radio
Photo by Karen Kasler / Ohio Public Radio
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Though the budget that passed the House and Senate is markedly different than the one he proposed in February, Gov. John Kasich says he’s happy with it.

The budget phases in income tax cuts of 8.5 percent, 9 percent and 10 percent. It also cuts income taxes on the first $250,000 of business income by 50 percent, and it increases the state sales tax to 5.75 percent. But Kasich says these measures aren’t enough.

“We intend to emphasize incentives for those who take risks, those who create jobs and for those who work," he said. "And we believe that consumption being rewarded is not the smartest economic policy, because our economic policy is designed to grow jobs.”

Kasich spoke to reporters at the governor’s residence, along with House Speaker Bill Batchelder and Senate President Keith Faber. And as the three Republican leaders sat together and shared a microphone, the visual suggested that they’d been working together all along -- though Batchelder and Faber stripped from Kasich’s budget rate cut and base expansion of the state sales tax, a tax increase on big oil and natural gas drillers and his proposed Medicaid expansion.

On that last note, Batchelder said stay tuned.

“We are down the road much farther than we are prepared to discuss," he said.

A few minutes later, the speaker was more specific, saying, “Medicaid in my opinion will come, and it will come this year. I have no doubt about that."

And Faber added that there’s a lot going on with Medicaid in the budget without the expansion.

“So while there could be a lot of discussion about adding another 250,000 Ohioans to the Medicaid rolls, and we’re going to have that discussion going forward," he said. "Don’t forget that this budget is essentially funding 231,000 more Ohioans anticipated on Medicaid now.”

Kasich says he has a commitment from Batchelder and Faber that the tax cutting isn’t over yet. Kasich has been clear in his dislike for the income tax, and sales taxes could be a vehicle to pay for another cut.

No Democratic state lawmaker voted for the budget. Among the Democrats criticizing it is Cuyahoga County executive Ed FitzGerald, the party’s likely nominee to run against Kasich next year.

“This budget is just a train wreck for the middle class," he said in a news conference in Columbus. "What you’re seeing happening is you’re seeing income tax for the very wealthiest people in the state being paid for by really increasing the tax burden overall on the middle class and the poor.”

Also blasting the budget is the progressive think tank Innovation Ohio. Dale Butland cites an analysis from the Plain Dealer that says the tax cuts in the budget would save 80 percent of Ohio’s small businesses around $400 -- not enough, he says, to create even one job.

“In terms of a multiplier effect, you’re talking about less than $400 a year," Butland said. "Please. This is just another giveaway to the wealthiest Ohioans at the expense of the rest of us.”

Kasich says most of those who are criticizing the budget are those who, in his words, delivered an $8 billion hole when we came in. Kasich has the power to cross out budget items, but he won’t tip his hand as to what he might be considering, even when asked about whether he’ll use the line-item veto on abortion-related measures in the budget. That includes a last-minute addition that requiring a doctor to inform a woman seeking an abortion of the presence of a fetal heartbeat.

On that, Kasich said, "Keep in mind that I’m pro-life."

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