DALLAS -- Ohio Gov. John Kasich is expected to wait until late Friday to sign off on a two-year $65 billion state budget, according to the governor’s press secretary, Emmalee Kalmbach.
Kasich has until 11:59 p.m. Friday to sign the budget and make any vetoes ahead of the July 1 start of the fiscal year. The House and Senate would need a three-fifths majority to override any vetoes.
The final legislative agreement closed a $1 billion revenue shortfall by cutting government spending across the board, gets rid of several funds that support local governments, reduces the number of tax brackets, and spends more than $175 million to combat the opioid epidemic.
The budget also includes controversial legislation that would freeze enrollment in the state’s Medicaid expansion starting July 1, 2018. Kasich's initial budget proposal would have continued to offer expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act to more than 700,000 poor Ohioans.
Kasich is being lobbied to veto legislation that ends Medicaid enrollment for poor Ohio residents.
Ohio House Democratic lawmakers have urged Kasich to line-item veto the Medicaid expansion freeze in the state operating budget. Democrats say that halting the expansion would leave over half-a-million Ohioans with minimal healthcare options.
“Ohio cannot afford to pay for the increased costs that will come by taking away people’s healthcare,” said state Rep. Emilia Sykes, D-Akron. “The people of Ohio deserve representatives in Columbus who will stand up and fight for them. Passing the Medicaid expansion freeze and kicking people off of Medicaid is unacceptable, harmful, and cruel and unusual punishment.”
Lawmakers had delayed a final budget due to disputes over how to plug the state’s projected budget shortfall. The shortfall stems from weak revenue collections that have been revised twice since the beginning of the year. Tim Keen, Ohio’s budget director, said that the revised revenue estimates project the state will collect $949 million less than previously expected over the biennium.
The updated baseline projection for all funds Medicaid spending has increased by only $49 million, or 0.1%, from the executive forecast. But Keen said that the required state general revenue fund spending for Medicaid has increased by a larger amount, $138 million, largely based on shifts in expected caseloads between programs that receive different federal matching rates.
“This bill provides Ohioans with a balanced budget that targets our state’s greatest threat, the opioid epidemic, with a new $180 million investment,” Chairman of the Finance Committee Ryan Smith, R-Bidwell said. “We have worked together with our colleagues in the Senate to put together a comprehensive plan that prevents drug use, while treating those who are addicted. This budget also prioritizes education and local capacity issues that are vitally important to Ohioans.”
S&P Global Ratings noted that the state has traditionally turned to interim budget agreements when a full plan remained elusive. The interim budget would include the full appropriation needed to pay all necessary debt service and lease-rental payments related to state bonds for the first year of the biennium. The first debt service payment of the upcoming fiscal year is due on Aug. 1.
Ohio is rated AA-plus by S&P and Fitch Ratings. Moody’s Investors Service rates the state Aa1.