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The Kasich bus runs over Republicans

A couple of years ago, upon his inauguration as governor of Ohio, Republican John Kasich famously advised Ohioans to get on his bus, because if they didn’t they were going to be run over.  

This was presumably directed at Democrats and squishy independents who didn’t necessarily support his party’s manly intent to, first, delegitimize public labor unions and later, provide certain restrictions on the body parts of child-capable utero-Ohioans, among other things.  

We should note the labor union legislation, SB5, was roundly defeated in a state-wide referendum within months of its passage.  The abortion restrictions may also be referred to the voters, although it is too soon to tell what would happen with that.  

We should also note that not long after voters tossed SB5 in the dumpster, Kasich appeared on a Sunday morning public affairs program and promised he wouldn’t go along with that kind of crap anymore.  He did use more polite language.  

Still, the get-on-the-bus theme continues to resonate.  Last week, Kasich demonstrated what he meant by the run-over part.  He used a sneaky, underhanded, possibly illegal maneuver to approve a Medicaid upgrade by asking the Ohio Controlling Board, via his proxy member of the board, to add the upgrade to the state budget.  

The Medicaid upgrade will add $256 billion to the state Medicaid coffers and 366,000 citizens to the Medicaid rolls.  

Those bumpety-bumps you just heard were Republican legislators being rolled over.  Oops.

No one has paid much attention to the Ohio Controlling Board until now.  It is obscure, for one thing, and its function — to add some  flexibility to state use of federal funds as a proxy for the legislature — non-obvious.  

Thus, if federal funds are made available for, say, enhanced unemployment benefits when the legislature is out of session, the Controlling Board can approve their acceptance by the state if the legislature has not specifically forbidden their acceptance in the General Assembly.  Or not.  The board has seven members drawn from both houses of the Lege, three from the Senate, three from the House, and one of the Governor’s choosing.  

So the question, as yet unanswered but already examined, is whether the legislature intended  financial appropriations to fund a Medicaid expansion or not.  The Buckeye Institute, a conservative public policy watch group, says Amended House Bill 59, the state budget, contained express language rejecting a Medicaid expansion.  Therefore, to Buckeye, it’s clear: the Lege was against it.

Kasich, that sneaky guy, used his line item veto to scratch out the relevant section of House Bill 59 before signing the budget.  Therefore, the language is not included in the final budget bill.  

Does that mean the Controlling Board can take the action it took, by a vote of 5-2.  

Depends on who you ask, of course, but the idea that legislative intent exists at all cannot be seen in the actual signed bill — except for maybe some scribble marks on the proposed bill prior to its signing.  Perhaps counting angels on pinheads would be more productive activity for the Lege to pursue, but angels v. pinheads are questions only judges can decide.

Kasich had made his interest in expanding Medicaid clear in the months before the budget was completed.  His Republican colleagues thought they had made clear their opposition.  

Seemingly rubbing it in, Kasich issued an upbeat statement of the Controlling Board’s action:  “Together with the General Assembly, we’ve improved both the quality of care from Medicaid and its value for taxpayers.  Today’s action takes another positive step in this mutual effort.  I look forward to continuing our partnership with the General Assembly to build upon the progress we’ve already made to make Medicaid work better for Ohioans.”  

Uh huh.  

One can only imagine heads exploding in Republican Headquarters in Columbus, and knives being drawn in the offices of his Republican legislative friends.  

There’s one knife coming out now.  Ohio Senate Republicans plan to propose another cut in the state income tax to make up for the difference in the state's finances. Here’s another — lawsuits, undetermined by whom just yet, will be filed by right-wing groups.  Considering its tone, the Buckeye Institute is likely to be involved.  

More bumpety-bumps might be ahead for the conservative members of the Republican delegation to the General Assembly.  More to come.  

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