|Midterm budget bill clears state Senate|
|Wednesday, June 04, 2014 8:33 PM|
COLUMBUS (AP) — A package of Ohio tax changes backed by the governor cleared the state Senate on Wednesday as part of a midterm budget bill.
The measure was to go to the House for a vote but was held up amid concerns from some representatives who wanted to ensure the Legislature had control over $300 million set aside in the bill for a Medicaid reserve fund. The fund covers unexpected expenses for the taxpayer-funded health program.
“The House wanted us to put belt and suspenders on it, so we’re putting belt and suspenders on it,” Senate President Keith Faber, a Celina Republican, told reporters.
A GOP-backed amendment added by the Senate in a separate bill would set limitations on how the money could be used.
The sweeping budget bill contains an agreement over how to spend certain funding for mental health and addiction treatment services. Another provision would create an evaluation system for caseworkers at county Job and Family Services departments.
The bill’s tax package supported by Gov. John Kasich includes a plan to double Ohio’s earned income tax credit from 5 percent to 10 percent for low-income taxpayers and increase personal income-tax exemptions for residents making under $80,000 a year.
The legislation also accelerates a planned 10 percent income-tax reduction by six months by reducing withholding rates on the final 1 percent in July rather than January. And it boosts a small business income-tax reduction to up to 75 percent on income up to $250,000 for the 2014 tax year.
The administration has said stronger state revenue than expected would allow for the cuts, estimated at $402 million.
Democrats have called the bill a missed opportunity to invest additional money in children’s services, schools and communities, not tax cuts.
But Senate Finance Chairman Scott Oelslager, a Canton Republican, said the tax package would help signal that the state was open for business. “Ohio must compete with our neighboring states,” he said.
A Kasich spokesman said he is expected to sign the bill. The governor can use his line-item veto authority on the measure.
The budget bill also contains a provision that states college athletes are not employees under state law. The status of full-scholarship football players became an issue in March after a federal labor official ruled Northwestern University players are employees and have a right to unionize.
The legislation was among a variety of bills state lawmakers voted on Wednesday, as they sought to finish their legislative work this week before breaking for the summer.