Morning News: Raises for city top brass under fire as deficit looms; Ohio tax revenues fall short again in April; House set to vote on ACA repeal today

According to a report released yesterday, Ohio’s tax revenues in April fell $47.5 million behind projects, widening a big shortfall in this year’s budget. That’s part of a larger trend caused, at least in part, by Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s tax cuts.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has some tax magic he wants to show you.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich has some tax magic he wants to show you.

Hello Cincy. It’s kind of a nasty morning out there, so maybe just stay inside and read some news, eh?

As the city faces a $25 million budget deficit in the upcoming fiscal year, should City Manager Harry Black have doled out merit raises to his top brass? That question came up in City Council’s meeting yesterday. Councilman Chris Seelbach railed against the raises at the meeting, saying they were inappropriate at a time when departments are facing the possibility of deep cuts due to the budget shortfall. City Manager Black responded that most of the raises in question were part of a yearly process approved by Council. Assistant City Manager John Juech got the biggest bump with a $13,000-a-year salary increase. He now makes $158,000 a year. All but seven of the city’s 20 upper management staff received merit raises, and all department directors received a 1 percent cost of living increase. All together, those raises cost $102,000. Black also hired an assistant who makes $80,000 a year, The Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Among other boosts: Cincinnati Police Chief Eliot Isaac, who got a merit raise of nearly two percent, bringing his total pay up to more than $166,000 a year. Raises for city union employees pushed through outside the normal bargaining process by Mayor John Cranley account for part of the looming deficit. Cranley pushed through a 5 percent raise for this year and next, and a 4 percent raise in 2019 for unionized city employees.

• Will expert defense and prosecution witnesses be able to weigh in on body camera footage showing former University of Cincinnati Police officer Ray Tensing shooting unarmed black motorist Sam DuBose? Will a T-shirt featuring a Confederate flag Tensing was wearing under his uniform be admitted as evidence? Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Leslie Ghiz was supposed to hear arguments about those issues yesterday, but will wait until May 26 after both sides’ video experts couldn’t make it to court. We’ll keep you updated on Tensing’s retrial, which is scheduled to start with jury selection May 25.

• Let the post-primary prognosticating begin. The Cincinnati Enquirer has not one but two stories on Councilwoman Yvette Simpson’s surprise mayoral primary victory Tuesday night. They’re both kind of flip sides of the same coin, and come down saying that Simpson’s victory was due mostly to low turnout. Only 11 percent of registered voters cast ballots in the primary — that’s double the turnout in the 2013 primary, but still abysmally low. Both articles also credit Simpson’s ground game — something that was in evidence in the days leading up to the election. While Simpson volunteers and campaign staffers fanned out far and wide across the city, headed by campaign manager and Democratic Party operative Amanda Ford, Cranley mostly counted on some $675,000 in ad spending, a good portion of it directly targeted against Simpson. Cranley has pledged to up his ground game post-primary, focusing more attention on door-to-door work. A side note — the article about Cranley’s second-place finish matter-of-factly states that the mayor “has a track record of delivering on his promises.” It’s an odd bit of opining in a straight-ahead news article, especially since the mayor’s promises have been a hotly contested issue this election and because the major pledge he was elected on — stopping the streetcar — did not come to fruition.

• Why did Northern Kentucky University turn down a $5 million offer from Louisville Public Radio that would have kept beloved radio station WNKU on the air? That’s a good question that has so far gone unanswered by the university, which in February sold the station, founded in 1985, to Bible Broadcasting Corp. due to Gov. Matt Bevin’s budget cuts to Kentucky’s public universities. You can read more about Louisville Public Radio’s offer to save WNKU here.

• Another month, another slide in tax revenue for Ohio. According to a report released yesterday, Ohio’s tax revenues in April fell $47.5 million behind projects, widening a big shortfall in this year’s budget. That’s part of a larger trend caused, at least in part, by Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s tax cuts to businesses. You can read more about that dynamic here.

• Finally, the U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote today on a bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with something Republicans cooked up called the American Health Care Act. This is the second time the GOP has attempted to pass a version of the legislation. The bill they’re mulling today hasn’t bee scored by the Congressional Budget Office, which provides nonpartisan analysis of how many people will be affected by legislation and how much that legislation would cost. It’s very uncommon to vote on a bill without a CBO score. Health care industry groups are almost universally opposed to the new legislation, which would strip away many of Obamacare’s protections for people with pre-existing conditions and most likely roll back expansions on health enrollment made under the ACA. Polls have shown voters don’t like the plan, but that isn’t stopping the House from voting on the bill. If it passes there, it will go to the Senate, where it will face staunch opposition from Democrats.

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