Ohio's budget director raises concerns with changes House made to Kasich's spending blueprint

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio's budget director took issue Thursday with changes the Republican-led House made to tax policies, school funding and other areas of Gov. John Kasich's state budget proposal.

Budget director Tim Keen told reporters that the two-year, $71.5 billion spending plan passed by the House last week relies on "optimistic" revenue and Medicaid estimates. Keen said he's also concerned with the amount of spending in the budget and its transfer of $200 million from a fund intended for unplanned expenses within the Medicaid health care program.

Kasich wants to guard the progress Ohio has made since closing a projected $8 billion budget hole after he became governor in 2011, Keen said.

"Now that things are seemingly getting better, it is not the time to backslide," Keen said. "We need to continue to be vigilant."

The House stripped major elements of Republican Kasich's initial tax proposal from the budget bill, including tax increases on certain business.

House Republicans were generally resistant to Kasich's plans to increase taxes on businesses. They opted for a smaller state income tax cut than what Kasich proposed and want a commission to study potential tax changes.

Keen said that while he's pleased the House included an income tax reduction, representatives missed a chance to do more. "Through tax reform, we could make much more progress."

The budget director also has been critical of the House's school funding changes, saying it guarantees that no school district loses money even when it experiences declines in enrollment and other marked changes.

"They have made a series of policy changes that they don't pay for," Keen said of the House plan. He's pushed to restore the school-funding formula changes in Kasich's version.

The Senate is now reviewing the sweeping spending measure, which funds state operations for the two years beginning July 1.

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