In a party line 23-10 vote today, the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate approved a $61 billion budget plan for fiscal years
2014 and 2015 that takes multiple measures against legal
abortions, aims to cut taxes for small businesses and partly restores education funding cut in the previous 2012-2013 budget.
The budget plan gives a large amount of attention to
social issues, particularly abortion. Most recently, the Ohio Senate added an amendment that could be used by the director of the Ohio Department of Health to close down abortion clinics.
The amendment bans abortion clinics from establishing transfer agreements with public hospitals, forcing the clinics to make such agreements with private hospitals,
which are often religious and could refuse to deal with abortion clinics. Under the amendment, if the clinics can’t reach a transfer agreement, the state health director is given the power to shut them down.
Abortion rights groups claim the amendment will likely be used to shut down abortion clinics or force them to dissolve their abortion services.
The bill also makes changes to family services funding that effectively defund Planned Parenthood, a family planning services provider that is often criticized by conservatives for offering abortion services, even though it does so exclusively through private donations.
The bill also redirects some federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families funds to crisis pregnancy centers, which effectively act as the anti-abortion alternative to comprehensive family planning service providers like Planned Parenthood.
The changes continue a conservative push on social issues that began in the Ohio House budget (“The Chastity Bunch,” issue of April 24).
Supporters praise the bill for “protecting life” and promoting “chastity” and “abstinence,” but critics are pushing back.
“Today the Ohio Senate turned its back on the health care needs of Ohio’s women and paved the way for family planning centers and abortion clinics to be closed across the state. If Gov. (John) Kasich doesn’t remove these provisions from the budget, the unintended pregnancy rate will rise, cancer will go undetected and women who need abortion care will not have safe, legal facilities to turn to in some communities,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in a statement. “This budget will put the lives of thousands of Ohio women at risk if Gov. Kasich fails to line-item veto these dangerous measures.”The Ohio Senate plan also scraps Ohio House plans to cut income taxes for all Ohioans by 7 percent and instead aims to cut taxes for small businesses by 50 percent.
Republicans claim the tax cut will help small businesses, which they call the state’s “job creators.” But conservative and liberal groups have criticized the plan.
Given that, Zach Schiller, research director at Policy Matters, says the plan will do little for Ohio’s economy.
“The fastest growing small businesses are not making money because they’re investing heavily in their operations — in marketing, research and sales,” Schiller says. “So if they’re making anything, they’re investing it by and large in the business, so they’re not likely to be able to benefit very much from this.”
He adds, “Meanwhile, you’re going to have passive investors who have no role in adding employees and partners in law firms, architecture firms, accounting firms and other kinds of professional organizations who will personally benefit from this in a way that I think is unlikely to generate more employment.”
Instead of focusing on tax cuts, Schiller argues the state should be increasing direct investments, particularly in education and human services.
“This is bad policy, and many supporters are errantly pushing it under the guise of putting more money in the hands of ‘job-creators.’ But this is based on a flawed understanding of what creates jobs,” wrote Scott Drenkard of the Tax Foundation. “The businesses that actually create jobs are not small businesses or big businesses; they are businesses that are growing. And that type of business is virtually impossible to target with a tax incentive.”
The budget plan restores about $717 million in education funding, but that’s not enough to outweigh the $1.8 billion in education funding that was cut in the 2012-2013 budget, which Kasich and the Republican-controlled legislature approved in 2011.
The education funding increases will disproportionately favor the state’s property-wealthiest districts — effectively giving the biggest funding increases to school districts that can already afford to raise more money by leveraging high local property values.
The chart shows only 15 percent of funding increases will go to the property-poorest one-third of school districts, while a vast majority of the increases will go to the property-wealthiest one-third.
Health care advocates were also disappointed to see the Ohio Senate pass on a federally funded Medicaid expansion, which would allow anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level — $15,856 for a single-person household and $32,499 for a family of four — to enroll in the government-backed health care program.
Kasich proposed expanding Medicaid in his original budget plan (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20), but Ohio legislators are skeptical of the expansion’s consequences.
As part of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the Medicaid expansion would be fully financed by the federal government for the first three years. After that, federal payments would be phased down to capture 90 percent of the expansion, where federal funding would permanently remain.
Republican legislators, backed by Republican State Treasurer Josh Mandel, are skeptical the federal government can afford the expansion. There’s no historical precedent for the federal government failing to meet its obligations to Medicaid, but Republican legislators argue there’s also no historical precedent for the federal government backing such large Medicaid expansions across the nation.
A Health Policy Institute of Ohio study found the Medicaid expansion would save the state $1.8 billion and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.
The budget also fails to restore local government funding cuts that have been carried out during Kasich’s time in office. In comparison to fiscal years 2010 and 2011, local governments are receiving about 50 percent less aid from the state, leading to $22.2 million less funds for Cincinnati on an annual basis (“Enemy of the State,” issue of March 20).
When asked to explain the various cuts to education and local government funding in the 2012-2013 budget, Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols told CityBeat in September 2012, “The reality is we walked into an $8 billion budget deficit. … We had to fix that.”
The Ohio legislature and Kasich must agree on a budget plan in time for a June 30 deadline.
In February, the U.S. unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent, from 7.9 percent in January, and the nation added 236,000 jobs. Many of the new jobs — about 48,000 — came from construction, while government employment saw a drop even before sequestration, a series of across-the-board federal spending cuts, began on March 1. Economists seem quite positive about the report.
In January, Ohio’s unemployment rate rose to 7 percent, from 6.7 percent in December, with the number of unemployed in the state rising to 399,000, from 385,000 the month before. Goods-producing and service-providing industries and local government saw a rise in employment, while jobs were lost in trade, transportation, utilities, financial activities, professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, state government and federal government. In January, U.S. unemployment rose to 7.9 percent, from 7.8 percent in December.
A new report outlined renovations for the city-owned Tower Place Mall, which is getting a makeover as part of Cincinnati’s parking plan. A lot of the retail space in the mall will be replaced to make room for parking that will be accessed through what is currently Pogue’s Garage, but two rings of retail space will remain, according to the report. The parking plan was approved by City Council Wednesday, but it was temporarily halted by a Hamilton County judge. The legal contest has now moved to federal court, and it’s set to get a hearing today.
Meet the mayoral candidates through CityBeat’s two extensive Q&As: Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley. Qualls spoke mostly about her support for immigration, the parking plan and streetcar, while Cranley discussed his opposition to the parking plan and streetcar and some of his ideas for Cincinnati.
A Hamilton County court ruled against the controversial traffic cameras in Elmwood Place, and the Ohio legislature is considering a statewide ban on the cameras. In his ruling, Judge Robert Ruehlman pointed out there were no signs making motorists aware of the cameras and the cameras are calibrated once a year by a for-profit operator. The judge added, “Elmwood Place is engaged in nothing more than a high-tech game of 3-card Monty. … It is a scam that motorists can’t win.” Bipartisan legislation was recently introduced to prohibit traffic cameras in Ohio.
JobsOhio, the state-funded nonprofit corporation, quietly got $5.3 million in state grants, even though the state legislature only appropriated $1 million for startup costs. JobsOhio says it needed the extra funds because legal challenges have held up liquor profits that were originally supposed to provide funding. In the past few days, State Auditor Dave Yost, a Republican, has been pushing Republican Gov. John Kasich and JobsOhio to release more details about the nonprofit corporation’s finances, but Kasich and JobsOhio have been pushing back.
Advocates for Ohio’s charter schools say Kasich’s budget amounts to a per-pupil cut, with funding dropping from $5,704 per pupil to $5,000 plus some targeted assistance that ranges from hundreds of dollars to nothing depending on the school. A previous CityBeat report on online schools found traditional public schools get about $3,193 per student — much less than the funding that apparently goes to charter schools.
Fountain Square will be getting a new television from Cincinnati-based LSI Industries with the help of Fifth-Third Bank and the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC). The new video board will have better image quality and viewing angles, but it will also come with more screen space for sponsors.
Ohio’s casino revenues rose in January. That could be a good sign for Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino, which opened Monday.
In light of recent discussion, Popular Science posted a Q&A on drones.
Ohio Treasurer Josh Mandel has returned more than $100,000 in campaign contributions in response to an FBI investigation into 21 donors who had no record of giving to federal campaigns and many appearing to have low incomes. Mandel, a Republican, is running against incombent Democrat Sen. Sherrod Brown. Mandel's campaign treasurer Kathryn Kessler sent a letter to donors explaining that any contributions appearing to be under investigation would be refunded.
From The Toledo Blade:
Although the campaign provided a copy of the letter to The Blade, it would not explain the timing of the decision or how long it has been aware of the federal probe.
The Blade revealed the unusual pattern of contributions in August.
The company's owner, Benjamin Suarez, and 16 of his employees (plus some of their spouses) gave about $200,000 to Mr. Mandel and U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R., Wadsworth) last year. Each of those donors gave $5,000, the maximum allowable amount, to one or both candidates.
The Ohio Senate yesterday passed new fracking regulations, and the final version caused some environmental organizations to change their stance on the bill. The Ohio Environmental Council and the Sierra Club had both been neutral on the legislation until changes were made forcing anyone suing over chemical trade secrets to show current or potential harm, according to The Enquirer. The regulations are part of Kasich's new energy bill and easily passed both the Senate and House and is expected to be signed by Kasich soon.
Cincinnati Public Schools says it will apply for the latest available federal education grants, which amount to nearly $700 million. The grants are geared toward helping schools proceed with reform and innovation.
The John Edwards trial has entered day six of deliberations.
United Nations inspectors have reportedly found uranium in Iran enriched beyond the highest levels previously reported. One diplomat said the measure could actually be a measurement error, though the reading could also mean that Iran is closer to producing bomb-grade uranium than previously thought.
Scientists might be one step closer to creating birth control for men after U.K. scientists found a gene used to enable sperm to mature.
Facebook's initial public offering didn't go entirely as expected, and some investors are getting refunds after technical problems and other issues marred the company's first week of trading.
The Reds completed a four-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves last night, winning their sixth in a row and overtaking the St. Louis Cardinal for first place in the NL Central.
The Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber released its positions on this November’s ballot issues. The chamber supports the Cincinnati Public Schools tax levy and Hamilton County mental health and services levy, but it does not support extending City Council’s terms to four years. The chamber also opposes Issue 2, which would place the redistricting process in the hands of an independent citizens commission instead of a commission run by politicians. The chamber said it opposes Issue 2 partially because it excludes “some Ohioans” from the redistricting process. The excluded Ohioans are lobbyists and politicians, who have a vested interest in redrawing district boundaries in politically advantageous ways in a process known as “gerrymandering.” In Cincinnati’s district, the district was redrawn by the Republican-controlled commission to include Warren County, which puts more emphasis on the rural vote that tends to vote Republican instead of the urban vote that tends to vote Democrat. CityBeat previously covered the redistricting issue here and here.
Related to Issue 2, the controversial ballot language that was approved by the state seems to be weighing down the amendment. Public Policy Polling said voters are confused by the ballot initiative.Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost found Value Learning and Teaching (VLT) Academy, a charter school in downtown Cincinnati, to be wasteful and unethical. According to a state audit, the school had multiple instances in the 2010-2011 school year in which it made excessive payments in possible conflicts of interest.
In another audit, Yost also criticized his own political party. Yost found the Ohio Republican Party accepted prohibited contributions and improperly spent money.A recent police chase that resulted in a crash and the the injury of minors is coming under scrutiny. The cop involved was found to be in violation of department procedure.
Even though he resigned abruptly, the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees is considering separation payments for former UC President Greg Williams. Board Chairman Fran Barrett says the payments will tie up “loose ends” and buyout Williams’ tenure.Gov. John Kasich is asking public colleges to collaborate on a funding formula. He says the schools should have a better idea than the state government of what they need. The schools previously collaborated on a construction wishlist, which apparently impressed Kasich.
A proposed state policy will force schools to keep better
track of who is kept in seclusion rooms and for how long, but the
details will be closed to the public.
The fired Democrats suing Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted will be getting their day in court. Yesterday, a federal judge agreed to a hearing on Sept. 21. The fired Democrats are suing Husted after he dismissed them for attempting to extend in-person early voting, which broke Husted’s uniform rules on voting hours.
Even Republicans are now demanding more substance from presidential candidate Mitt Romney.A North Dakota college football player says he got kicked off his team for kissing his boyfriend.
In-person early voting is underway in Ohio. Find your nearest polling booth here.
The final presidential debate is tonight. It will cover
foreign policy. The debate will likely focus on the recent attack on
the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya and Iran’s nuclear program. Whatever happens, political
scientists say debates typically have little-to-no electoral impact. In
aggregate polling, Obama is up 2.2 points in Ohio and Romney is up 0.3 points nationally. Ohio is considered a must-win for Romney, and it could play the role of 2000's Florida. The debate begins at 9 p.m. It will be streamed live on YouTube and C-SPAN.
CityBeat will host a debate party tonight at MOTR
Pub in Over-the-Rhine from 7:30-10:30 p.m. Come watch the debate and live
tweet. Councilman Chris Seelbach will make an appearance. If you can’t
show up, at least tweet if you watch the debate with the hashtag
#cbdebate. Check out the event’s Facebook page for more information.
If Gov. John Kasich gets his way, 60 percent of bachelor’s
degrees will be completable in three years by 2014. The move intends to
raise graduation rates and save money for students. Currently, very few
students graduate in three years. Only 1 percent of Miami University
students and 2 percent of University of Cincinnati students graduate
Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee, a new education
policy approved by Kasich that requires all students to be proficient in
reading in third grade before they can move onto fourth grade, could
cause 40 percent of students to be held back in some schools.
The policy is meant to encourage better progress and higher reading standards, but some studies
have found retention has negative effects on children.
The Urban League of Greater Cincinnati announced a merger and expansion into Dayton. The organization will now be called the Urban League of Southwest Ohio.
Greater Cincinnati home sales ticked up in September, but there was some slowdown.
The end of the Scripps trust that funded the Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps Company could lead to the end of a few newspapers. But Ohio will not be affected; the company no longer owns newspapers in the state.
Plant identification has never been easier at Cincinnati parks.
University of Cincinnati researchers are using a $2.7 million grant to see if there’s a difference between generic versus brand drugs for transplant patients. The study could potentially save money and lives.
Tired of traditional bridges? Meet the trampoline bridge.
Gov. John Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget plan is on the horizon, and it contains “sweeping tax reform,” according to Tim Keen, budget director for Kasich. Keen said the new plan will “result in a significant competitive improvement in our tax structure,” but it’s not sure how large tax cuts would be paid for. Some are already calling the plan the “re-election budget.” Expectations are Kasich’s administration will cut less than the previous budget, which greatly cut funding to local governments and education.
Chris Monzel is now in charge
of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners. Monzel will serve as
president, while former president Greg Hartmann has stepped down to vice
president. Monzel says public safety will be his No. 1 concern.
City Council may vote today on a plan to build the first freestanding public restroom, and it may be coming at a lower cost. City Manager Milton Dohoney said last week that the restroom could cost $130,000 with $90,000 going to the actual restroom facility, but Councilman Seelbach says the city might be able to secure the facility for about $40,000.
Tomorrow, county commissioners may vote on policy regarding the Metropolitan Sewer District. Commissioners have been looking into ending a responsible bidder policy, which they say is bad for businesses. But Councilman Seelbach argues the policy ensures job training is part of multi-billion dollar sewer programs. Board President Monzel and Seelbach are working on a compromise the city and county can agree on.
The Hamilton County Board of Elections is prepared to refer five cases of potential voter fraud from the Nov. 6 election. The board is also investigating about two dozen more voters’ actions for potential criminal charges.
King’s Island is taking job applications for 4,000 full- and part-time positions.
Ohio may soon link teacher pay to quality. Gov. John Kasich says his funding plan for schools will “empower,” not require, schools to attach teacher compensation to student success. A previous study suggested the scheme, also known as “merit pay,” might be a good idea.
An economist says Ohio’s home sales will soon be soaring.
Debe Terhar will continue as the Board of Education president, with Tom Gunlock staying as vice president.
Equal rights for women everywhere could save the world, say two Stanford biologists. Apparently, giving women more rights makes it so they have less children, which biologists Paul R. and Anne Ehrlich say will stop humanity from overpopulating the world.
Ever wanted to eat like a caveman? I’m sure someone out there does. Well, here is how.
The Ohio Department of Education is caught in a bit of a mess. This morning, the state auditor’s office announced it would be conducting a probe into the Ohio Department of Education over school test and attendance data. Yesterday, Ohio Superintendent of Public Instruction Stan Heffner said the Ohio Department of Education will be investigating more schools for possible instances of fraudulent data reporting. The superintendent’s announcement came on the same day Lockland School Districts were found to be reporting false attendance data for better test results.
Delta Airlines announced it will be closing down Comair, which is headquartered in the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky International Airport. The move could have a significant impact on jobs in the region.
Only 6,000 out of 140,000 eligible Ohioans have initiated a foreclosure review process, according to Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown. The review could potentially save Ohioans a lot of money.
The Ohio Supreme Court still thinks Ohio’s smoking ban is constitutional.
Skype is making chat and user data more accessible to police.
There is now a reason to be jealous of Kansas City. Google will be offering its ultra-fast Internet service in the area for only $70 a month.
Nearly one in five voters thinks President Barack Obama is a Muslim.
Mitt Romney had a bad couple days during his trip to London: An aide allegedly made racist comments about Obama’s commitment to “Anglo-Saxon heritage,” Romney questioned if London is ready to host the Olympics, and he talked about meeting with the leader of MI6, the British intelligence agency. And he said he’s excited to return the “bust of Winston Churchill” to the Oval Office. Whatever that means.
Nobody has a case of the Mondays, according to a new study in the Journal of Positive Psychology.
Scientists have found a way to temporarily restore eyesight in blind mice. But it requires a direct chemical injection into the eyes.
President Barack Obama will visit Cincinnati Monday. No
details were given for the event. Last time Obama was in
Cincinnati, he held a town hall meeting to tout his support for small
businesses and the LGBT community. Ohio is considered a vital swing
state for the presidential election, and it’s widely considered a
must-win for Republican candidate Mitt Romney. However, after the
Democratic National Convention, aggregate polling at FiveThirtyEight and
RealClearPolitics hugely favors Obama, establishing many paths for the
Democrat to clinch the presidency. Obama could lose Ohio, Virginia and
Florida and still win the election, which shows how many options he has to victory.
The 2013 Hamilton County budget process is “challenging,” says Commissioner Greg Hartmann. He says the county is dealing with a $200 million budget instead of the $300 million budget of six years ago, which is presenting new problems. Hamilton County Sheriff Si Leis said budget cuts could lead to up to 500 jail bed cuts. CityBeat previously covered the county commissioners’ inability to tackle challenging budget issues — sometimes at the cost of the taxpayer.
State Auditor Dave Yost says his investigation into attendance fraud at Ohio schools could last well into the year. The investigation, which began after Lockland Schools in Hamilton County were found of attendance fraud, is slowed down by the state’s data-reporting system, according to Yost. Schools may falsely alter their attendance reports to improve grades in the state report card.Secretary of State Jon Husted has been sued again. This time he’s being sued by the Democratic Montgomery County election officials he fired. The officials tried to expand in-person early voting hours in Montgomery County to include weekend voting, but the move violated Husted’s call for uniform hours across the state.
The Ohio EPA will host a workshop in Cincinnati on Sept. 25. The workshop will focus on the Ohio Clean Fund and other tools and incentives to help individuals and groups embrace clean energy.
For the first time since December, Ohio's tax collections were lower than expected. The state was $43 million below estimates in August.
A study found wind power could meet the world’s energy needs. Wind currently supplies 4.1 percent of the United States’ energy needs. Obama greatly boosted the production of wind energy with tax credits. Romney vowed to repeal the tax credits in a brief moment of substance.