Ohio Gov. John Kasich vowed on Friday to continue pushing for Medicaid expansion even though it wasn’t included in the $62 billion, two-year state budget he will sign on Sunday.
Kasich took a victory lap on Friday, touting the budget legislators approved the day before that includes $2.7 billion in income tax cuts over three years, an increase in the state sales tax and nearly $1.3 billion in new school funding over two years at a press conference at the ceremonial governor’s mansion near Columbus.
Kasich touted other elements of the budget, including a new higher education funding formula that incentivizes graduating students.
“I feel very strongly about it, we’ll continue to push for it,” Kasich said of Medicaid expansion. Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder, R-Medina, and Kaisch told reporters they think there will be action on Medicaid later in the year.
Kasich unsuccessfully tried to persuade state lawmakers to accept a federal offer worth $13 billion over seven years to expand Medicaid eligibility to another 275,000 poor, working Ohioans as part of the state budget. But conservative Republicans resisted, tying the program to the expanding federal debt, among other concerns.
“But today is not a day to fight about what’s not in here,” Kasich said. “Today is a day to celebrate what I believe is an incredible accomplishment for the people of this state.”
But Ed FitzGerald, Kasich’s possible 2014 Democratic opponent, scheduled his own press conference Friday to lay into the budget, calling it a “train-wreck for the middle class” and “indefensible.”
Appearing before reporters in Columbus, FitzGerald called on Kasich to veto the tax plan, along with abortion restrictions Republican lawmakers inserted into the budget, saying both elements would be out if he were governor.
“What it means for ordinary (poor and middle-class) Ohioans, they’re getting stuck with an enormous bill, and wealthy Ohioans are getting a $6,000 tax cut,” FitzGerald.
The budget’s tax plan would phase in 10 percent cuts in personal income tax rates over three years, as well as introduce a 50 percent tax cut on the first $250,000 earned by businesses and investors organized as LLCs, partnerships and S corporations.
It would pay for the cuts through a combination of a hike in the state sales tax rate, by ending a state 12.5 percent contribution for new tax levies paid for by property owners, and by making small increases on businesses that pay commercial activity taxes.
FitzGerald also criticized abortion-related measures Republican lawmakers inserted into the state budget that would require doctors to detect a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion and putting Planned Parenthood at the back of the line for federal family planning funds.
Kaisch declined to discuss with reporters which items he might veto. He said the tax plan reflects his long-term goal of moving Ohio’s tax system away from income and toward consumption, which he said would encourage companies to invest in the state and create jobs.
Asked about the budget’s abortion language, Kasich said: “We’ll go through all those provisions. Just keep in mind that I’m pro-life.”