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The Suburbanite
  • Stark delegation split on state budget

  • Three of Stark County’s four state representatives discussed their votes on the state budget bill late Thursday night.

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  • Stark County’s state representatives split along party lines in their votes Thursday night on the Ohio House’s state budget bill, which the Republican-controlled chamber approved 61-35.
    Republican state Reps. Kirk Schuring of Jackson Township, Christina Hagan of Marlboro Township and Marilyn Slaby of Copley Township voted “yes.”
    Democratic state Rep. Stephen Slesnick of Canton voted “no.”
    The two-year, $120 billion state budget bill now proceeds to the Ohio Senate, where the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by State Sen. Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton, will draft its version of the budget.
    The bill:
    •  Would cut state income tax rates by 7 percent, costing the state an estimated $700 million a year in revenue. Kasich wanted the rates cut by 20 percent by 2015.
     
    •  Would not expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act, which would have allowed an additional estimated 18,000 Stark County residents and about 270,000 additional Ohio residents to be eligible for Medicaid starting this January. Many Republicans are concerned expansion would eventually cost the state too much.
     
    •  Would boost basic state aid to school districts from Kasich’s proposal of $5,000 per student to $5,732 the first year and to $5,789 the second year. Would increase state spending on student transportation, the Associated Press reports, but would scale down Kasich’s proposed increases for special education and gifted programs, resulting in slightly less total education spending than Kasich asked for.
     
    •  Doesn’t include Kasich’s proposals to reduce the sales tax rate from 5.5 percent to 5 percent, apply the sales tax to services, increase the severance tax on the oil and gas industry and give small business owners a 50 percent tax break on profits up to $750,000.
     
    •  “Effectively eliminates all state funding of Planned Parenthood,” the AP says.
    Medicaid expansion may not be dead. Representatives voted 97-0 to approve an amendment stating the House will consider Medicaid reform legislation later this year.
    Mercy Medical Center, which backs Medicaid expansion, said in a statement that it appreciated the House’s decision  “to allow the possibility of addressing the health care coverage gap ... without enacting important reforms, many hard-working Ohioans will remain without appropriate health care coverage, leading to a lack of access to primary care and the receipt of medical treatment too late and in the least cost-effective manner.”
    Affinity Medical Center said in a statement, “When uninsured patients can’t pay for their care, it’s the hospital and community that bear the cost.”
    Canton City Schools Treasurer Jeff Gruber said under the House version of the budget, his school district would get about $72 million a year in state aid, about $2 million less than under Kasich’s proposal. But it would still be an increase from the current $68 million.
    Page 2 of 2 - Saying that “there’s always winners and losers,” Schuring said under Kasich’s proposal only 8 out of 17 school districts in Stark County would get more money than they’re getting this year. Under the House version, 16 out of 17 will get more, he said.
    Schuring said he voted for the bill to move the budget process forward, and he predicted the final version will look very different. He would not say whether he would have supported Kasich’s Medicaid proposal, but he said, “there’s many benefits to the state’s taxpayers and to people of the state that can come as a result of that.”
    He said he wants to look at “enhancing Medicaid and we do it in a way that includes workforce development and wellness care ... so that those who are underemployed and might be eligible for Medicaid could find the type of employment they really need so they can ... break away from their need for the Medicaid.”
    Slaby said she voted for the budget because “one, we have to have a budget” but “there are some things that will need to be changed here and there.”
    She said as a former teacher, she would have liked to have seen more funding for schools. Slaby said she would have supported Medicaid expansion if there were no alternative plan.
    Slesnick said while he agreed with House Republicans that a sales tax on services would have penalized consumers and businesses, the bill did not fully restore education and local government funding cut in the last budget, lacked a constitutional school funding formula and did not expand Medicaid.
    Without Medicaid expansion, “you’re going to see people using ERs as a practitioner,” Slesnick said. “There are going to be situations that occur where it’s going to be too late to catch certain illnesses. It’s like walking over dollars to pick up pennies.”
    Reach Robert at 330-580-8327 or robert.wang@cantonrep.com.
    On Twitter: @rwangREP