Abortion restrictions, tax cuts included in Ohio budget

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The Ohio Legislature has approved a state budget that cuts personal income taxes and adds new abortion restrictions.

The new budget, which will be sent to Gov. John Kasich to sign, also revamps the state's school funding system.

The Republican-led Ohio House approved the $62 billion, two-year spending blueprint Thursday by a vote 51-43, over the objections of Democrats. The state Senate approved the bill earlier Thursday.

Reaction to the state's budget plan seems to depend on a person's political affiliations.

It's The Economy, Stupid

Members of the GOP argue the tax cuts will create new jobs, partially due to a cut in the state's income tax.

House Republicans touted $2.7 billion in overall tax cuts delivered over three years under the bill. They said such breaks benefit all Ohioans and the state's overall economy.

Kasich told Scripps sister station WEWS in Cleveland that the budget will create jobs, in part because of a 50 percent tax cut on the first $250,000 earned by business owners.

"We're going to have a 2.6 billion dollar tax cut, that's pretty good, and I wanted most important the small business tax cut," said Kasich, adding that he believes the plan will "cover almost all the small businesses in the state."

Kasich said he believes emphasizing "work and risk taking and job growth" is what raising the sales tax will do for the state.

Emily Simons thinks lowering one tax while raising another could equal out in the long run.

"With the sales tax all the same, I also spend a lot of that money, so I think all in all it's going to come out almost even for me," she said.

Some Democrats argue the budget rewards the wealthy with thousands of dollars in handouts, while increasing the taxes on the middle class.  

"Budgets express our state's priorities, and these are miserable. This budget prioritizes millionaires and leaves the middle class behind," wrote Rep. Connie Pillich (D-Montgomery) in a press release.

"We had an opportunity to create a targeted middle class tax cut and invest in education, police, and fire.  But instead it creates an unfair tax shift that regressively penalizes the middle class, elderly, and poor."

College student and part-time worker Claire Silbersack falls into that category.

While the income tax would have an impact, she told 9 On Your Side reporter Bryce Anslinger that increasing the sales tax to 5.75 percent would have a negative impact on her budget.

Health Care And A Woman's Right To Choose

Many Democrats are particularly critical of a decision to exclude from the bill Medicaid expansion under the federal health care overhaul.

"The failure to expand Medicaid confounds the economists, businesses, chambers of commerce, hospitals, physicians, health care professionals, faith leaders, and social service agencies that tell me this is not only the morally right move, but it is also the most sound fiscal course for our state," wrote Pillich.

Many of the Democrats upset about the new health care provisions in the budget are upset about the recent addition of abortion provisions to the state's spending plan.

Days before the vote on the budget, Republicans amended the state's spending bill to require abortion providers to inform pregnant women seeking the procedure if a fetal heartbeat is present.

They also added a provision that prohibits doctors from performing an abortion without determining the presence of a fetal heartbeat "unless there is a medical emergency" and redefines what constitutes a medical emergency.

Pro-choice supporters packed the statehouse Thursday afternoon as the House considered the budget proposal but their presence was unable to affect the vote.

Pillich believes the budget will have a negative impact on women's health. She called the bill an "aggressive attacks on women's health to restrict access to contraception and cancer screenings have no place in the budget at all and are flatly opposed by doctors and women who believe that women are rather capable of deciding these things on their own."

The spending plan also calls for withholding money from Planned Parenthood.

"It's basically about trying to coerce women into not having an abortion it has nothing to do with good medicine it has everything to do with politics," said Rick Pender with Planned Parenthood.

Officials from Planned Parenthood believe they would wait approximately a month to determine whether or not they would be able to mount a legal effort to stop the abortion provisions from becoming law.

Pro-life supporters, on the other hand, believe the provisions aren't going to limit women's health so much as ensure women have all the information needed to make a decision that could impact not only her long-term physical health but also her mental well-being.

"In the case of abortion there are two persons involved: there's the baby and the woman," said Paula Westwood with the organization Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati. "By fully informing them of the baby's heartbeat a woman knows exactly what she's choosing if she does choose abortion."

Kasich is expected to sign the measure before a deadline Sunday after exercising his line-item veto power.

He has not indicated if he would veto any of the provisions in the spending plan.

-- 9 On Your Side reporter Bryce Anslinger contributed to this report

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