Yesterday, the Columbus Dispatch reported that the House Republicans were set to consider some 200 amendments submitted in response to the Substitute House Bill they introduced for the State’s budget Thursday afternoon.  Now the fate of these amendments are far from certain, but among the things the House GOP is being urged to change are:

  • Their new provision that would give county commissioners authority to privatize county jails.  It’s getting to the point where Ohio’s criminals may never actually be punished by the State, but out-of-state corporations hired to mete out punishment for profits.
  • Some Cincinnati-area lawmakers want to change the CAT-tax provisions for the casinos away from being based on gross receipts, but changed from net.  The Strickland Administration largely favored gross, and it appears the Kasich Administration has as well.  However, the casinos are threatening that a CAT tax on the gross receipts would force them to scale back the plans for their developments of the casinos that they were able to get a constitutional lock to create.
  • Provisions that would substantially revise teacher tenure as we know it and enact some of the merit-based pay provisions of SB 5 is supposedly up for further consideration.  Just like SB 5 did, continuing contracts for teachers are limited to three-year terms in the changes the House GOP announced Thursday and prohibits continuing contracts (tenure) for any teacher who was initially licensed after January 1 of this year.
  • The massive power grab handed to for-profit charter school operators like David Brennan of White Hat Management that has been roundly criticized by charter school advocates of turning Ohio into a “laughingstock” nationally when it comes to accountability for charter schools.  Among the things that the House GOP included for charter schools was a ban of collective bargaining rights of employees of charter school governing authorities (i.e. charter school employees.)

On Thursday, the House unveiled a number of changes to some provisions we’ve been discussing since the budget was first unveiled by Governor Kasich in mid-March.

The massive privatization power grab for Kasich’s Cabinet.

The House Republicans limited the six-pages buried in the Governor’s budget that would have given Office of Budget & Management Director Tim Keen authority to privatize any State government service was reduced down to allowing Keen to privatize any “highway services” and that power is sunset at the end of the first fiscal year of this budget.  Based on the surrounding language, it’s pretty clear that the House GOP is giving the Kasich Administration a green light to lease the Ohio Turnpike out to a private operator, but for some reason they just won’t out and just say that’s what they’re doing.

Assistance to help seniors stay in their homes (Passport) 

  After the Dispatch reported on Kasich’s hypocrisy of talking in his State of the State about helping seniors stay in their homes and out of expensive nursing home care only to slash the budget for Passport, which does just that.  The House Republicans removed about $15 million of the Governor’s cuts to the programs.  The bad news is that means they’re still keeping roughly 74% of the cuts to the program’s funding that the Governor originally called for.

Will that additional $15 million help House Republicans in the fall when they face angry seniors who are still going to upset by the Republicans vote to slash tens of millions from the program in a massive double digit cut to a very popular program’s funding?  I bet not.

Changes to civil service protections

For the most part, the House GOP kept all of Governor Kasich’s changes to Ohio’s civil service laws that we mentioned.  The only changes they made is that when a veteran and a non-veterans tie on an examination, the House GOP kept the current law that breaks the tie in favor of the veteran applicant.  Kasich’s budget would have eliminating this veterans’ hiring preference law.

Other than that, the House kept all the other changes that the Governor’s budget proposes, including changing how much of a bonus a veteran applicant gets to their civil service examination.

What hasn’t changed

The changes the House GOP was, let’s face it, minor practically cosmetic changes to the bill.  The most substantial changes the House did make from Kasich’s budget was:

  • Add an extra $80 million for schools (which is a drop in the budget compared to the billions in State funding they’re still going to lose under even the House GOP budget),
  • Gut sentencing reform out of the budget,
  • Cut out of Kasich’s proposal for a shift of pension contributions from the State to employees beyond what they’re already having to make in additional contributions to return the pensions to solvency after the Lehman Brothers-inspired collapse of Wall Street, and
  • Add the last-minute inclusion of estate tax repeal.

Kasich’s prevailing wage changes are unchanged and unchallenged.  His privatization of Ohio’s prisons and juvenile facilities has now expanded to include the juvenile facility in Scioto County that Kasich’s budget slated to close.

The State Senate has already begun their own committee hearings this week on the State budget.  The House Finance Committee is expected to pass the budget out of committee this afternoon or evening.  A floor vote on the House is expected on Thursday where there may be even more attempts to amend the budget.

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