While most of us have been paying attention to the crisis in Washington, D.C., right here in Ohio we have our own crisis. Governor Kasich, a Republican, has decided that he will bypass the Ohio House and Senate and instead seek the approval of an appointed seven-person board to spend over $2.5 billion.
President Obama’s legacy “accomplishment,” the Affordable Care Act, allowed for states to apply for federal funding to expand their definitions of eligibility rules for Medicaid. While Medicaid was originally designed to take care of the poor, aged, and disabled, this expansion is largely targeted at working, able-bodied adults.
After severely criticizing Governor Strickland, a Democrat, during the 2010 campaign for “going to Washington D.C. with his tin cup out,” Kasich has gotten his own tin cup out – except this one is to expand a program that enslaves people in dependency and is in desperate need of reform.
Regardless of your position on the wisdom of expanding a broken system, the present crisis has been created by Kasich’s desire to use the Controlling Board to effectively appropriate over $2.5 billion.
Kasich originally proposed this “grow government” expansion policy in his version of the two-year operating budget. During the budget negotiations, amidst an onslaught of debate, neither the House nor the Senate agreed to the expansion. In fact, the budget the Legislature passed explicitly stated that the Governor could not expand Medicaid. Kasich vetoed that portion of the budget.
In Ohio, it is the Legislature that is given, through the Constitution, the power to spend or appropriate our tax dollars, regardless of whether those dollars come from Washington D.C. The Controlling Board, which Kasich now seeks to use to expand Medicaid, is a body that exists merely to control the flow of funds – and only after the Legislature has decided to spend such funds.
Whether you agree with Kasich’s view of Medicaid or not, his disregard for the Ohio Constitution and the necessary separation of powers between the Executive and Legislative branches cannot be ignored – nor will it be. You can expect to see legal challenges. And if those challenges fail, expect to see a legislative attempt to better define the executive power over the Controlling Board.
This debate over Medicaid started as an important but simple policy debate. Governor Kasich is turning it into a crisis of structural integrity by challenging the very foundation of the separated power of Ohio government, vested in our State Constitution.
Governor Kasich should stop. But if he doesn’t, this is a crisis that neither Democrat nor Republican can afford to ignore.
Seth Morgan is a former Ohio State Representative and regular speaker and writer. Morgan is the Chair of the Conservative Republican Leadership Committee and a board member of Citizens for Community Values.
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Related on OCR: Read all articles by Seth Morgan here.
Related on OCR: “Arguments for Ohio Medicaid Expansion Full of Holes”