The Republican-dominated Ohio legislature has been shifting costs to local taxpayers while handing out tax breaks to the wealthy, said Ohio House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton.
“If you don’t replace that money, local taxpayers will be asked to,” Strahorn said Monday before a Dayton town hall meeting. “All these tax things are coming home to roost.”
On Tuesday the Ohio Senate Finance Committee will consider amendments to the Senate’s proposed two-year $130 billion state budget.
The full Senate is expected to vote on it Wednesday. A conference committee will iron out differences between the Senate and House passed budgets before final votes next week on a budget that, by law, must close a $1 billion revenue shortfall. The deadline for approving a balanced budget is June 30.
Democrats have called for the legislature to close the revenue gap by canceling a tax break that allows small businesses to avoid paying taxes on the first $250,000 in income. The Senate’s proposed budget would not rollback that tax break - approved in 2013 and 2015 - but would cover the shortfall with budget cuts. Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, has said the state needs to be able “to live within our means.”
About 70 people attended the Monday town hall at Grace: A United Methodist Community and organized by Dayton Indivisible for All.
Strahorn said the state’s budget problems won’t get better until the state adopts progressive solutions such as investing in infrastructure and people, and stops making budget cuts that hurt local governments and schools. Those cuts over the years have led to more local levy requests to pay for schools, police, fire, criminal justice and emergency medical services, Strahorn said.
“Their idea was if we just cut taxes for rich people” they will invest it and it will translate to more revenue and jobs, Strahorn said. He said that hasn’t happened and Ohio lags other states on several measures even as the national economy has improved.
The town hall panel included David Romick, president of the Dayton Education Association; Kathleen Gmeiner, project director of Universal Health Care Action Network; and Dawn Cooksey, director of behavioral health services at Goodwill Easter Seals-Miami Valley.
Romick denounced proposals to cut funding for school transportation and what he said is inadequate school funding from the state.
Cooksey and Gmeiner both talked about the consequences of federal proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with with the U.S. House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA), which will cut Medicaid funding for low income people. The U.S. Senate is working on its version.
Gmeiner said the AHCA proposal to use high-risk pools to cover people with pre-existing conditions would mirror ineffective programs that were in place before the Affordable Care Act made covering those illnesses mandatory.
“We know high risks pools will not work,” she said. “There will not be enough money.”
Cooksey said Medicaid expansion in Ohio has helped people get treatment for addiction and cutting the funding “will be devastating to persons with mental health or substance abuse issues.”
“How can we send a child to school ready to learn when their home is so disordered with opiates (and) and family abuse?” asked Fred Allen, a Dayton resident who attended the town hall.