COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio’s state budget is headed into compromise talks following Senate passage on Wednesday.
The $65 billion, two-year spending blueprint cleared the Senate, 24-8, after several hours of debate and efforts by minority Democrats to turn back limits on Medicaid expansion and a new work requirement for recipients of the government health care benefit.
The Senate plan calls for extending Medicaid expansion for one year. After July 1, 2018, no new enrollees would be accepted to the program covering some 700,000 poor adult Ohioans — and those who dropped off the program by finding better employment could not re-enroll.
Republicans argued the change would allow the state time to see what happens to health care in Washington, where congressional Republicans are working to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
The Ohio House passed its version of the budget in early May.
Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) says the bill (AM. Sub. House Bill 49) invests in essential public services, maintains historic levels of state aid for education and preserves key tax reforms while reducing government overhead and closing a projected revenue shortfall of roughly $1 billion.
“This budget is fiscally responsible while investing in the citizens and priorities of this state,” said Obhof). “I’m proud of the work we were able to accomplish to keep our state healthy and our future hopeful.”
Senator Scott Oelslager (R-North Canton), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee added, “This was a very tight budget, but we listened carefully to Ohioans to understand their priorities and expectations of financial stability for the state of Ohio.”
Senate Democrats released a statement after the budget passed.
“We were told this was not going to be a pain-free budget, but our Caucus has demonstrated that it could be,” said Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights). “Senate Democrats aim to give every Ohioan a fair shot at good paying jobs, quality education, strong and safe communities and affordable healthcare. We presented a plan to achieve all of these goals, but it was rejected to keep a tax plan that benefits only 14% of the population and has not spurred job growth. That doesn’t make any sense. We can and should do better.”
To make up for a projected $1 billion budget shortfall, the Senate cut administrative costs across state agencies by an average of 3-4 percent.
Other highlights in the budget include roughly $180 million in additional funding to fight Ohio’s opiate crisis, on top of the nearly $1 billion already spent by the state annual on drug abuse and addiction/
The budget also includes $60 million in funding for child protective services and programs to support children in drug-affected families.