Senate poised to rebuke Gov. John Kasich with overrides

COLUMBUS - Ohio's GOP lawmakers have never overridden the veto pen of Gov. John Kasich.

That is expected to change Tuesday.

Lawmakers are poised to override up to 11 vetoes – many dealing with how Ohio pays for health care through Medicaid. Kasich has touted himself as a health care expert to national audiences but has faced criticism for choices, such as expanding Medicaid through Obamacare, from Republicans closer to home.

Kasich's budget gurus say lawmakers dramatically under-funded Medicaid – about $1.4 billion short over two years – and Kasich's veto pen was needed to balance Ohio's books.

Kasich had a warning from lawmakers: "As the saying goes: if you break it, you own it."

At least one controversial proposal won't be on the table Tuesday. A plan to halt new enrollment in Medicaid for lower-income Ohioans without children after mid-2018 didn't come to a vote in the House last month, so the Senate can't consider it Tuesday. Kasich's administration estimated the freeze would eliminate health care for about 500,000 people.

Still, that wasn't the only proposal Kasich can't stand.

Lawmakers want to provide $207 million each year to counties and transit authorities to offset money lost by a sales tax that the federal government no longer allows. To do this, lawmakers want the Kasich administration to ask the federal government if Ohio can raise its franchise fee on hospitals for the next six years.

"It was the right thing to do to ask for the waiver and try to help out our local governments," said Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Township. Debate over the override has pitted hospitals, which oppose the plan, against local officials.

Kasich worries that asking could jeopardize the money Ohio already collects. He initially proposed phasing out that money for counties and transit authorities, but commissioners wailed.

Will GOP senators override that veto? They are meeting Tuesday morning to finalize their plans.

Other potential overrides include:

  • Requiring approval from a seven-member panel called the Controlling Board before spending $165 million in state money on Medicaid.
  • Prohibiting new, optional groups on Medicaid.
  • Requiring a legislative panel's approval before increasing Medicaid payment rates.
  • Setting newborn and neonatal services rates on Medicaid at 75 percent of the Medicare rate.
  • Prohibiting nursing homes from being added to Medicaid managed care without lawmakers' approval.
  • Adding $237 million for nursing homes.
  • Delaying the move of behavioral health services into managed care until July 1, 2018.
  • Requiring Controlling Board approval to pay for the state's portion of Medicaid expansion.
  • Requesting a waiver from the federal government for most Medicaid recipients to pay $8 a month into a health savings account. (This request was previously rejected.)
  • Allowing lawmakers to fill a commission that would permit fracking on public park lands.
  • The last time lawmakers rejected a governor's veto was in December 2006, when the GOP-controlled Legislature passed an override of Republican Gov. Bob Taft's veto of a concealed handgun license bill. It has been nearly 40 years since lawmakers undid multiple vetoes on the state budget.

For many lawmakers, the overrides are a way to reassert control over the budget and its biggest expense: health care.

"We thought the budget, the way we passed it, was right," Coley said. 

The Cincinnati Enquirer


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