Today, Senator Michael J. Skindell (D-Lakewood) spoke out against a Senate amendment added to Amended Substitute House Bill 49, known as the state’s biennial operating budget. The amendment, which allows the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to adjust rates to utility customers of electric distribution utilities based on its credit rating, could result in higher rates to customers. The amendment was secretly inserted into the bill at the last minute, without opportunity for the public to weigh in.

“This is another example of the Ohio General Assembly benefitting a utility company at the expense of consumers,” said Senator Skindell. “Energy companies should be providing their services as promised from the start, rather than appealing to a few State Senators to fix their problems by manipulating our state budget.”

In essence, the PUCO would be able to adjust the rate an electric distribution utility may charge to customers under an electric security plan. This would be done so the utility could achieve and maintain a minimum credit rating that is at least an investment grade credit rating.  This move would help utilities when their credit rating is downgraded. 

According to an article in Midwest Energy News, “[The amendment] would expressly authorize extra charges to ratepayers to support utilities’ financial health.” 

The budget provision would directly benefit First Energy. According to an article on Cleveland.com, “Of the state's major electric utilities, FirstEnergy has a junk bond rating on its senior unsecured bonds, according to Standard and Poor's ratings. FirstEnergy's S&P rating on its long term secured debt is medium investment grade, but with a negative outlook.”

According to the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, as well as other consumer and business advocates, this is an anti-consumer provision that will enable electric utilities to increase rates for Ohio families and businesses based on maintaining utility credit ratings.  It goes against recent Ohio Supreme Court decisions and may interfere with current appeals from customers based on rate increases currently before the Court. 

Senator Skindell also denounced the lack of transparency surrounding this legislation. It was snuck into the budget bill at the last moment during Senate deliberations.  

“Having energy companies improve their credit ratings through lobbying efforts in the General Assembly is a privilege that normal Ohioans do not get when their credit scores are in trouble.  This amendment is unfair. The process that inserted it into the budget is unfair.  This energy company’s amendment does not belong in Ohio’s budget.”

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – Today, members of the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus expressed frustration with their Republican colleagues' choice to make cuts to communities and services when better alternatives existed.

The Republican-led Senate passed their version of the two-year state budget bill (Amended Substitute House Bill 49) this evening and sent it to the House for concurrence. Senate Democrats had offered two alternative budget plans that would have balanced Ohio's budget and sent funding where it was most needed. Both of these proposals were rejected in favor of massive cuts across the board.

“We were told this was not going to be a pain-free budget, but our Caucus has demonstrated that it could be," said Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights). "Senate Democrats aim to give every Ohioan a fair shot at good paying jobs, quality education, strong and safe communities and affordable healthcare. We presented a plan to achieve all of these goals, but it was rejected to keep a tax plan that benefits only 14% of the population and has not spurred job growth. That doesn’t make any sense. We can and should do better.” 

The Senate Democrats offered two alternative budget plans to their colleagues. The first plan is a three-step process that would end one failing tax break – which hasn’t created any jobs – in order to balance the budget and fund the state properly.

  • Step 1: End the “business investor” tax break (LLC Loophole).
    • This would bring in more than $2.2 billion over the biennium.
  • Step 2: Take approximately $1 billion in savings from suspending the LLC loophole to erase Republican budget cuts and balance the budget.  
  • Step 3: Invest the remaining funds into the following priorities:
    • Local Governments - $350 million
    • Higher Education - $200 million
    • Education - $250 million
    • Opioid Crisis - $200 million
    • Medicaid and Human Services - $200 million 

The second plan is a two-step tax fairness plan that would repeal the failing “business investor” tax break (LLC Loophole) and cut taxes for Ohioans who need the most assistance.

  • Step 1: Repeal the failing “business investor” tax break.
    • This would bring in more than $2.2 billion over the biennium.
  • Step 2: Tax relief for those who need it the most.
    • Lower the state sales tax by 0.25%
    • Energy Star sales tax holiday 
    • Income tax credit for displaced worker training
    • Income tax credit for seniors
    • Child and dependent care tax credit
    • Child tax credit
    • Education tax credit for adults
    • Refundable Earned Income Tax Credit

After both of these options were rejected, Senate Democrats offered individual amendments and packages to assist Ohio residents wherever possible.  

Members of the Senate Democratic Caucus released the following statements after Amended Substitute House Bill 49 passed the Senate:

Senator Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood), Ranking Democratic Member on the Ohio Senate Finance Committee: 

“In the simplest of terms, the budget we were asked to vote on today offers short-sighted, short-term solutions for long-term problems, such as lack of meaningful investment in working families, lack of meaningful investment in our communities, and lack of meaningful investment to increase opportunities for all Ohioans. Once more, the wealthy and big businesses will fare far better than working families under this budget.” 

Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus), Assistant Senate Minority Leader:

“After deliberations on the floor today, I am left with a feeling of disappointment in my Republican colleagues. As Ohio legislators – who were elected by the people and for the people – our budget priorities were owed to the needs of those same individuals, especially our most vulnerable Ohioans. 

“We had a chance to give all Ohioans a fair shot, but we missed that opportunity. Instead, the Majority chose to produce a budget reflective of the wants of only a portion of our citizens who are in far less need than our most vulnerable.

“Our focus for this budget should have been on allocating funds to our struggling local governments, child and adult protective services, equitable health policies, and education. Instead, we have cut these vital services and abandoned those most in need. We could have balanced the budget in a better and more equitable way, but we failed to do so today.”

Senator Edna Brown (D-Toledo), Senate Minority Whip:

“This is a budget with many sides. If the amendments I have added remain intact post-conference committee, I will have ensured that local governments can continue to regulate poisonous lead while also establishing a lead study committee so the state can learn from Toledo’s good work on this issue. School children in high-needs areas will have increased access to summer meal programs. Public university employees will keep their sick leave and collective bargaining rights. And there are others.

“Unfortunately, this budget has too many flaws to gain my support. Perhaps most importantly, it continues the private tax subsidy that stacks the deck in favor of the wealthy. Under the Democrats’ alternative plan, by removing this single tax giveaway, we would balance our current budget and properly fund education, support local governments, battle the opioid crisis, and maintain healthcare access. Hard-working Ohioans deserve fairness. Our budget reflects our values; it should give a fair shot to everyone.”

Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati), Assistant Senate Minority Whip:

“The mark of a true leader is having the courage to admit when you are wrong or have made a mistake. My Republican colleagues need to acknowledge that this tax loophole is a mistake. It’s time to stand up, be of good courage, and reject the current budget bill.”

Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman):

“We need to be investing in Ohio’s future by finding a sustainable way to fund our schools, improve our failing infrastructure, and assist our local governments. Communities need this funding in order to tackle the opioid epidemic and all the other issues they are facing. This budget does very little to address these pressing issues.”

Senator Vernon Sykes (D-Akron):

“Instead of supporting adequate funding to local governments or investing in programs to help local communities, this budget continues to undermine public schools, cut essential funding to social programs, and fleece public safety resources.

“It’s nice to see appropriations made toward early childhood education and the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, but we’ve got to do better. Cutting taxes to spur economic growth has proved catastrophic to states that practice this ‘smaller government’ approach.

“Easing the tax burden is one thing, but creating tax breaks that benefit a few while the majority of Ohioans lose support services is an ineffective approach and the primary contributor to the state’s revenue shortage.”

 
 
  

Columbus—Today, State Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) spoke out against an effort to undermine the rights of injured workers in Ohio.  A controversial provision of the Worker’s Compensation Budget (HB 27) for FY 2018-2019 would cut the statute of limitations for filing injury claims from the current two-year limit to only one year. 

“This is another example of the Ohio General Assembly chipping away at workers’ rights,” said Senator Schiavoni.  “This time the Republican majority has taken aim at workers who need help recovering from injuries so they can provide for their families.” 

Senator Schiavoni offered an amendment today in the Senate Insurance and Financial Institutions committee to keep the current two-year statute of limitations. However, the committee rejected the amendment on a party-line vote with all the Republican members voting to table it. 

“This change will punish workers who try to work through an injury with the hope that it will get better.  Now, if their condition doesn’t improve they can be blocked from filing a claim,” added Senator Schiavoni.  “We’ve also heard from veteran’s groups opposing this reduction to the statute of limitations. They’re concerned that members of the armed forces who are deployed after an injury at their civilian occupation could be blocked from filing a claim if they don’t return home before a year has passed.” 

 
 
  

Columbus – Today, Senator Edna Brown (D-Toledo) announced that she has introduced over fifty individual amendments to Substitute House Bill 49, the state budget bill. Senator Brown’s amendments strive to protect working Ohioans, improve the health and wellbeing of citizens, and provide at-risk youth with opportunities for success.

“I’ve worked hard to address the most pressing concerns expressed by my constituents during this budget cycle,” said Senator Brown. “Though funding is limited, it’s critical that we’re allocating resources properly. I hope my colleagues will recognize how important these amendments are for families and communities across Ohio.”

 Some of Senator Brown’s amendment priorities include:

  • Funding for educational and mentorship programs, including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwest Ohio and the Toledo Grace Community Center.
  • Implementing the Children’s Summer Nutrition Bill to expand access to nutritious meals after school’s out.
  • Funding for the Healthy Lake Erie Program.
  • Allowing municipalities to maintain lead abatement regulation authority.
  • Support for lead-based paint abatement, containment and housing rehabilitation in the historic south neighborhoods of Toledo.
  • Subsidizing the University of Toledo’s Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute.
  • Prohibiting hospitals from requiring a registered nurse or licensed practical nurse to work overtime as a condition of continued employment, except in emergencies.

 

For a more detailed synopsis on some of Senator Brown’s amendments, click here.

 

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – Today, the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus announced a budget plan that would erase the state budget deficit and provide additional funding for communities, schools, Medicaid, and the fight against Ohio’s opioid crisis. This could be accomplished by suspending the business investor tax break, which has failed to create jobs. It does not provide employers enough funds to hire any new workers. The nonpartisan Legislative Service Commission (LSC) estimates the tax deduction will cost Ohio over $1 billion per year during the next budget. 

“Ohio is facing a budget shortfall of over $1 billion. The Republicans' solution is to continue cutting funding for vital services, schools, and communities.  But Ohio’s budget shortfall is a result of the majority’s irresponsible tax policy,” said Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights). “We are throwing money away on a tax break that’s not creating jobs. If your house is on fire, you don’t stand there debating why it’s on fire. You put it out." 

By ending just one tax giveaway – the business investor tax break – the state would see over $2.2 billion in revenue over two years. The Senate Democrats’ plan would follow a three-step process:

Step 1: Suspend the business investor tax break for two years. This would bring in more than $2.2 billion over the biennium.

Step 2:Take approximately $1 billion in savings from suspending the tax break to erase Republican budget cuts and balance the budget.   

Step 3: Invest the remaining funds into the following priorities: 

Opioid Crisis - $200 million

  • Authorize temporary and immediate transfer from “rainy day” fund to local government services and treatment programs (Uses Senate Bill 154 as a roadmap).
    • Then repay the “rainy day” fund with General Revenue Fund (GRF) revenue.

Medicaid and Human Services - $200 million

  • Targeted investments to improve health outcomes.
  • Limit/remove premiums, work requirements and Controlling Board obstacles to Medicaid expansion.
  • Increase funding for Adult Protective Services, Child Protection Services, food banks (TANF) and childcare.  

Education - $250 million

  • Unlike the Executive/House/Senate budget plans, no school districts would receive a cut to foundation funding.
  • Invest in our future by increasing pre-school spending, increase career tech funding and restore recent Tangible Personal Property Tax (TPP) cuts.

Higher Education - $200 million

  • Increase funding for state share of instruction (“SSI”) and Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG)
  • Increase funding for short-term employment certificates to help put more Ohioans to work.
  • Restore funding for SNAP Employment and Training Program.

Local Government - $350 million

  • Local Government Fund (LGF) and Public Library Fund (PLF) increase by $74 million through suspension of tax deduction.
  • Increase funding for regional transit systems and for Boards of Elections to purchase voting machines.
  • Provide over $200 million to address MCO phase out.

Members of the Senate Democratic Caucus released the following statements after the announcement of their budget plan:

Senator Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood), Ranking Member on the Senate Finance Committee:

“We believe that every single Ohioan deserves a fair shot. The Republicans' tax structure has put Ohio’s working class families at a disadvantage. They have introduced a tax scheme that allows lawyers, accountants, business owners, and investors to avoid paying state taxes, while the secretaries, janitors, and service employees still pay their fair share of state income tax.

"We have created a tax plan that benefits all Ohioans. It begins with the suspension of the business investor tax break, which has failed to create jobs.”

Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus), Assistant Senate Minority Leader:

“In these uncertain times with the attacks on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Ohio Republicans are further destabilizing our healthcare system by instituting cuts to Medicaid. This is providing uncertainty for healthcare providers, insurers and most importantly patients. Our plan would give $200 million to Medicaid and critical programs such as food banks and Adult & Child Protective Services. We would also limit or remove harmful insurance barriers – such as work requirements and funding obstacles.

"Without a healthy workforce, Ohio cannot thrive and our residents will not be ready to learn and be ready to earn. We have the ability to improve the health of our citizens by ending this failing tax giveaway. Why wouldn't we choose that option?”

Senator Edna Brown (D-Toledo), Senate Minority Whip:

“Ohio’s local governments are drastically underfunded, which forces them to place levies on the ballot to fund vital services like fire and police. Under our plan, Ohio would restore local government funding and once again trust our communities to spend their own money. 

"Our cities and towns simply cannot afford the cuts the Republican plan has proposed. We are presenting a far better option.”

Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati), Assistant Senate Minority Whip:

“The budget that the Republicans have proposed would cut funding to education. Of all the places to cut, why would we choose our schools? Our children are the future. They need a quality education and a fair shot at successful careers.

"With our plan, our children and schools would see more of the funding they need. Our plan would increase funding to both K-12 education and higher education. The budget must prioritize our youngest citizens.”

  

The Senate Democrats' full press conference can be viewed here.

 
 
  

Columbus—Today, Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights) and Senator Michael J. Skindell (D-Lakewood), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, spoke out after the Ohio Senate released its version of the state budget (HB 49).  The Senate plan calls for more than $1 billion in cuts to erase a growing deficit and does nothing to correct misguided GOP tax policies. 

“Instead of taking a balanced approach to erasing the budget deficit, Senate Republicans decided to cut their way out of the problem,” said Senator Yuko.  “Investing in vital services should be a higher priority than protecting tax breaks for wealthy Ohioans and business investors. More budget cuts will be devastating to our citizens and communities.”

The Senate Finance Committee released a substitute version of the state budget this afternoon.  Further amendments will be submitted before the Senate votes on the budget bill next week. 

“We believe every Ohioan deserves a fair shot in life. But this budget falls short of that goal,” said Senator Skindell.  “It picks winners and losers and puts a greater burden on local governments to provide services like police and fire protection without adequate support from the state.”

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – Today, Senator Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) announced that he has offered over 40 individual amendments into Substitute House Bill 49 – Ohio’s 2-year budget bill – on behalf of the families of the 28th Senate District and Ohio. Senator Sykes’ amendments focus on increasing access to early childhood education and critical state and federal resources. They also aim to improve life for the residents of his district.

“Although money is tight, we must keep Ohio’s children and struggling families at the top of our list of priorities,” said Senator Sykes. “The state should not ignore our most vulnerable residents to fund less critical needs. Without a healthy, educated community, our state cannot thrive.”

Some of Senator Sykes’ priority amendments would:

  • Increase state funding for Early Childhood Education
  • Increase access to federal food programs to help feed more hungry children
  • Help schools pay to transport students to and from school
  • Increase funding for Infant Mortality Health Grants
  • Increase Public Library Fund (PLF) allocations
  • Provide funding for the Interval Brotherhood Home Addiction Recovery Center

A more thorough explanation of some of Senator Sykes’ amendments can be viewed here.

The Senate Democratic Caucus submitted over 400 amendments to Substitute House Bill 49, each of which is focused on improving the lives of Ohioans and focusing the state’s resources where they are most needed.

 
 
  

Columbus—Today, State Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman) issued the following statement after the Franklin County Court of Appeals denied a request by the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) to block the Ohio Department of Education from forcing the online charter school to repay $60 million.  An ODE audit conducted last year determined that ECOT had greatly exaggerated student attendance.

“This latest court decision makes it clear that ECOT's day of reckoning is near. As I’ve been saying for more than a year, it’s time for ECOT to be held accountable for wasting tax dollars and failing to educate its students. No longer should ECOT or any online charter school receive millions of taxpayer dollars for teaching to empty classrooms.” 

 
 
  
 
Senate Democrats Condemn Republican Plan To Take Healthcare From One Million Ohioans
Caucus will introduce a resolution opposing the "American Health Care Act"
June 07, 2017
 
 

COLUMBUS – Today, as President Trump visits Ohio, the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus is calling on the U.S. Congress to vote against the American Health Care Act of 2017 (AHCA). According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis, the AHCA would result in one million Ohioans losing insurance coverage. Over 23 million Americans would lose coverage by 2026.

"Our job is to protect the citizens we serve. The AHCA will cause harm to some of our most vulnerable populations, which is simply unacceptable,” said Senate Minority Leader Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights). “The AHCA would increase healthcare costs for the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions. We could see one million of our fellow Ohioans without health insurance.”

This week, the Caucus will introduce a resolution urging the U.S. Congress to vote against the AHCA. The resolution will be jointly sponsored by Leader Yuko and Assistant Senate Democratic Leader Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus). All other members of the Senate Democratic Caucus have signed on as co-sponsors.

The AHCA could dramatically increase insurance premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for low-income individuals and those with pre-existing conditions. This would have a particularly damaging effect on elderly individuals. 

The AHCA is opposed by many prominent national medical organizations, including:

  • The American Association for Retired Persons (AARP)
  • American Medical Association (AMA)
  • American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
  • American Health Care Association

A copy of the Caucus' resolution will be sent to each member of the Ohio Congressional delegation, as well as ranking members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives and the White House.

The language of the resolution can be viewed here.

Members of the Ohio Senate Democratic Caucus released the following statements upon the announcement of this resolution:

Senator Charleta B. Tavares (D-Columbus), Assistant Senate Democratic Leader:

"I am proud to join my fellow senators in expressing our collective outrage at the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The AHCA, or the 'Health Care Loss Act,' would leave our most vulnerable Americans without care. More than 700,000 Ohioans who received health care through the expansion of Medicaid would be negatively impacted.

"These are our constituents – veterans, individuals struggling with addiction and mental health disorders, and working low-income Ohioans. We cannot pretend that these residents will be 'ready to learn or ready to earn' without their health care needs being addressed. The Health Care Loss Act is misguided and mean spirited. We are encouraging the U.S. Senate to step back and work to improve upon what did not work with the Affordable Care Act, not leave 23 million Americans without care."

Senator Edna Brown (D-Toledo), Senate Minority Whip:

“The Republican effort to reform American healthcare has fallen far short. Costs will rise. Millions will lose insurance. Americans with almost any type of pre-existing condition—asthma, depression, arthritis, sleep apnea, and more—will no longer be covered at all. And the AHCA doesn’t stop there. It will also cripple both Medicaid and Medicare. This should not be about politics but about solving one of the biggest issues facing our nation today.”

Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati), Assistant Senate Minority Whip:

“The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution establishes ‘promot[ing] the general Welfare’ as one of the founding goals of the United States of America. As public servants, it is our duty to provide for our neediest populations, regardless of the size of their paycheck. Quality, affordable healthcare is a human right, not a privilege.”

Senator Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman):

"The American Health Care Act (AHCA) would leave Ohioans uninsured and unhealthy. Across the nation, the AHCA would raise costs for our most vulnerable residents and leave many without coverage. 

“I urge Congress to consider the effects this bill would have on the health of Ohio and this nation. Let’s not go backwards. No one wants to be remembered as the politicians who took healthcare away. Let’s improve and build on current law to move the country forward.”

Senator Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood):

“More than 900,000 additional Ohioans have health coverage today due to provisions of the ACA. That amounts to almost ten percent of the population. The Congressional Budget Office has made it clear that the U.S. House Republican plan would take us in the opposite direction.”

Senator Vernon Sykes (D-Akron):

“This bill is morally and financially flawed. The main goal of this legislation should be expanding access to affordable and quality care – unfortunately that is not the case with the Republicans’ healthcare bill.

“Future healthcare reforms should make insurance more affordable and expand quality care to more Americans. They should not create tax breaks for wealthy corporations and obstruct access for more than 23 million people.” 

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – Today, State Senator Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati) released the following statement opposing current language in Ohio’s state budget bill – Substitute House Bill 49 – that would allow oil and gas drilling in local parks and other public lands.

“Ohio families spend time together in our beautiful parks every day. We need to preserve these areas for future generations to enjoy. There are plenty of other places available for drilling that will not take valuable green space away from our citizens.

“Republican legislators have been trying to drill in our parks for years. They always meet strong opposition, because it’s pretty easy to see this idea is wrong for Ohio. The Ohio Senate Democrats have offered several amendments to this year’s budget to remove this troubling language and preserve our natural resources for centuries to come.”

 
 
  
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