Governor signs next 2-year, $69B Ohio budget, with 25 vetoes


By Kantele Franko - Associated Press



COLUMBUS (AP) — Republican Gov. Mike DeWine approved a 4% cut in personal income taxes as part of Ohio’s next state budget but vetoed 25 other items Thursday, including elements affecting Medicaid, education and young adult smokers.

The $69 billion, two-year spending plan eliminates the income tax for people earning less than $21,750, directs $550 million for educational wraparound services such as mental health counseling, and schedules the 2020 primary election on St. Patrick’s Day despite objections from Democratic lawmakers concerned that it will hinder voting.

It also raises the minimum age for tobacco purchases from 18 to 21. DeWine vetoed a grandfather clause that would have exempted people who are 18 to 20 as of Oct. 1, noting that is the age range when most daily smokers begin that habit. He said the exemption would have been too burdensome for businesses.

“This budget will lead to healthier children, stronger families, safer communities, an enhanced workforce, and a more prosperous Ohio, while also providing significant tax relief for every Ohio taxpayer and regulatory relief for Ohio businesses,” DeWine said in a statement.

He vetoed a provision intended to direct more money to fast-growing school districts whose funding had been capped, saying some of the state’s wealthiest districts would have benefited the most.

He also nixed proposals to change how Medicaid pharmacy benefits are administered. DeWine said Ohio still can pursue having just one Medicaid pharmacy benefits manager instead of working through multiple managers, but he said accomplishing that requires giving officials more flexibility than was in the budget language.

Democrats had urged him to veto expansion of private-school scholarships and funding for crisis pregnancy centers that abortion rights advocates oppose, but DeWine let those provisions stand.

The budget retains debated tax breaks for businesses and the motion picture industry, boosts funding for foster care in response to effects of Ohio’s addictions epidemic, funds the new “H2Ohio” water quality initiative and slightly increases the percentages of state revenue that go to funds for local governments and public libraries.

Education-related provisions alter high school graduation requirements, provide $20 million to help replace aging school buses, and block new so-called state takeovers of poor-performing school districts for a year while the GOP-led Legislature and the Ohio Supreme Court consider the matter .

DeWine’s signoff Thursday came a day after lawmakers passed the belated budget. Ohio had been operating under a 17-day temporary budget since lawmakers missed the original deadline for the first time since 2009.

Lawmakers also approved a budget for Ohio’s insurance fund for injured workers. The nearly $645 million funding measure for the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation didn’t include a provision the House favored earlier that would have covered post-traumatic stress disorder for emergency responders who aren’t physically injured.

House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, said debate about PTSD coverage is expected to continue via separate legislation.

By Kantele Franko

Associated Press