A highly anticipated override vote in the Ohio Senate aimed at filling a possible $807,000 hole in the county’s coffers didn’t happen Tuesday, but according to Highland County Board of Commissioners President Shane Wilkin, the vote has only been delayed, not killed.
Ohio senators did not take action Tuesday on five House-approved veto overrides, one of which would have restored a tax increase on health insurers aimed at helping counties and regional bus services. Locally, the loss from the Medicaid-funded Managed Care Organizations is estimated at $807,000 for Highland County.
Wilkin said during a Wednesday commissioners meeting that the County Commissioners Association of Ohio informed commissioners that the Senate requested a two-week hold on the override vote so they could “explore options.”
According to a statement from the CCAO, representatives from transit authorities, members of the legislature and CCAO representatives will meet with administration officials in coming days to “see if an alternative solution can be reached.”
Highland County Auditor Bill Fawley said during Wednesday’s meeting it’s “better to table than to lose.”
When Kasich issued his veto last month, Wilkin said, “The governor’s veto is extremely disappointing, especially considering our budget is already stressed. Covering the state shortfall with a fee while not addressing local governments’ loss will most likely require additional budget cuts.”
Lawmakers proposed the idea to offset losses from the sales tax on Medicaid-managed care organizations that’s being discontinued by the federal government. Kasich’s administration contended the $207 million tax increase risked Ohio losing even more money and would create a $615 million loss for Medicaid.
Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist warned senators that his Washington-based Americans for Tax Reform would be “educating” constituents on any vote. He sent a similar letter last month to members of the Ohio House, who voted to override the veto anyway.
Senators voted Tuesday to restore budget provisions giving legislators additional control over future Medicaid spending and imposing additional requirements on some program recipients.
They weren’t able to take up Kasich’s veto protecting Ohio’s Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act, because the House didn’t act on it.
Also Wednesday, commissioners heard from Charles Newland and David Grover, who visited the meeting on behalf of the newly charted Liberty Lions Club. Newland, a longtime supporter of Lions clubs, said the club currently has 24 charter members.
The commissioners issued a proclamation declaring Aug. 23 the club’s charter date.
Lakeside Drive resident Jim Barnett visited the meeting shortly after the commissioners approved increasing assessments on properties utilizing the Lakeside sewer from $420 to $480 annually.
The commissioners recently sent a letter to those affected by the increase, and Wilkin said he received one phone call from a concerned individual.
Barnett said he feels when it comes to utility costs, officials have to “fight and beg” for as little as a five-percent fee increase, rather than simply pass what he said is essentially a 14-percent increase.
“I’m just trying to justify the cost,” he said.
Wilkin said the commissioners approved the increase under the advice of Environmental Engineering Services, a consulting firm that has worked with the county for close to 25 years. Barnett said he doesn’t trust the firm.
“I don’t have a lot of faith in that company,” he said.
Barnett requested the board provide financial information on the Lakeside sewer plant, and said more information should have been presented before the commissioners voted.
Wilkin said the board would provide the information Barnett requested.
“It’ll just pacify (Lakeside residents) a little,” Barnett said. “It seems like an awful drastic increase.”
The commissioners also authorized the Highland County Airport Authority to use a loan from the Ohio Department of Agriculture to obtain a hangar at the Highland County Airport, and voted to approve and endorse the public official bond for Highland County Treasurer Vickie Warnock.
Next week’s meeting will be held Thursday, Aug. 31 at 1:30 p.m. instead of its usual Wednesday date and time.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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