COLUMBUS — In a historic session on Thursday morning, the Ohio House of Representatives took the first step to override the vetoes of 11 items which were vetoed on Friday evening by Gov. John Kasich in the budget bill.
Of particular importance to a delegation of Meigs County officials, and those from other counties in attendance, was the veto of the proposed fix for the Medicaid managed care organization sales tax loss set to impact the counties and regional transit authorities.
Meigs County officials Commissioner Randy Smith, Clerk of Courts Sammi Mugrage, Recorder Kay Hill, Sheriff Keith Wood, Treasurer Peggy Yost, EMS Director Robbie Jacks and President of the Trustees Association Bill Spaun, attended the House session as did Meigs Junior Cole Durst and Sentinel Managing Editor Sarah Hawley.
“Today in the House we witnessed a great movement to preserve local government. It was great seeing bipartisan support in overriding the governor’s veto. Today, Governor Kasich was reminded that our communities are worth fighting for,” said Randy Smith of the 87-10 vote by the Ohio House to override Kasich’s veto.
The next step is for the Ohio Senate to consider the matter, where 20 votes will be needed to override the veto.
Should the Senate approve the veto override, the state would be required to approach the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to seek a waiver to increase the franchise fee paid by insurers. The money from the fee increase, which is not a tax, would then go to the counties and transit authorities as a replacement for the sales tax loss. The sales tax loss is the result of a federal rule change, not a state level decision.
The state has previously negotiated with CMS on a waiver which provided funding to offset the sales tax loss to be incurred by the state, but there was no replacement for the counties or transit authorities.
Kasich proposed, and the House and Senate approved, a one-time payout to the counties and transit authorities as a fix to the sales tax loss. The payouts were based on the need of the county and the funding that had been received, although no formula has been released for this determination.
Meigs County would lose approximately $574,000 in funds, while Gallia County would lose approximately $600,000.
“It’s a step forward in the right direction,” said State Representative Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell), serving the 93rd District and chairman of the House Finance Committee. “I wish it didn’t have to come to this. We tried working with the administration.”
Wood summed up his reaction best in one word — “relieved.”
“Everybody worked hard,” noted Wood of the efforts by the house.
“Today, Representative Edwards and others showed that they care about their communities and stepped up to turn this around,” said Wood.
Wood emphasized that the action taken to fix the sales tax loss is an important one particularly for the safety of Ohio’s counties, as the impact would be felt in all county offices should the county suffer a 10 percent budget cut.
“We all want to thank everyone, locally and at the state level, who worked so hard on this. The representatives were obviously unified and genuine in their want to help their county constituents. We are thankful,” said Mugrage of the override approval.
Hill and Yost noted that the governor’s office is aware of the budget of counties and knows that a cut such as this can not be incurred.
“How can we afford these cuts?” asked Hill.
In Meigs County, elected officials are often found working 40-hour weeks, alongside there staff in order to meet the needs of the citizens of the county, while remaining within an already tight budget.
“We suffered through this in 2012 with a 10 percent budget reduction,” said Gallia County Board of Commissioners President Harold Montgomery. “We’ve made a lot of changes and reorganized some different departments and done different scheduling. We’re back on good ground. To try and absorb these cuts again, I don’t know where’d we go with it.”
Montgomery approved of the House’s overall decision Thursday but said county governments still weren’t in the clear until the Ohio Senate and federal government came to a decision. Montgomery said Gallia stood to lose $600,000 from its budget.
According to Smith, the last time the House had to override a veto of such nature was June 6, 1977. That day the House overrode three budget issues. Between that time and now, the House has overridden five, two of which were standalone bills. Thursday, the House overrode 11 budget issues.
“I think it is a reflection of the moment in time where the governor vetoed 47 items, and that’s a lot of items. There’s items that people were very passionate about. Three or four of those items were pretty bipartisan, things that were agreed upon by the entire legislative body in the house,” said State Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) of the action taken by the house on Thursday.
“We’re hoping the Senate picks up on this,” Edwards added.
There is currently no date announced for the Senate to consider the veto overrides.
“I will be on the phone trying to call senators, trying to call leadership trying to get them here and trying to make sure they pick the ball up for the rest of the legislature to get this done,” said Edwards of continuing to push for the sales tax fix.
The House voted to override 11 items that Kasich vetoed from the state budget Friday. The House restored a provision giving legislators additional control over future Medicaid spending and revived the Healthy Ohio program, which imposes additional Medicaid requirements that could bump 125,000 enrollees off the program.
The House did not consider an override to Kasich’s veto to freeze Medicaid expansion.
The House also did not consider an override to the elimination of the Ohio Resident Educator Program. The provision, had it remained, eliminated the four-year program for new teachers that they complete in order to prepare for a professional educator license.
Dean Wright contributed to this story.