MCO remain concern

By Nikki Blankenship -

During Thursday’s commissioner’s meeting, Scioto County Commissioner Bryan Davis explained that the Commissioners would continue to monitor the Medicaid Care Organization (MCO) tax elimination replacement amendment that was vetoed last week by Gov. John Kasich, who vetoed several line items in the State budget. The tax elimination is expected to create a loss of $2.1 million in County funds. The amendment would allow counties a six-year transition period. The House was voting to override the veto Thursday morning.

“The way I guess it is going to play out is the House will vote to override the veto on the MCO tax,” Davis commented. “I believe the Governor’s office will respond with a negate, which means it will go to the House again for a second vote on the veto override. So, it will go to the Senate later today, or at least that is the plan.”

Davis stated that several local representatives are committed to overriding the veto, including Rep. Terry Johnson and Senator Joe Uecker.

“It’s a little bit of concern on our part,” Davis commented. “With the override, of course, that will create of window of six years for reprieve on the MCO tax issue to give Scioto County enough time to respond and potentially replace the loss of $2.1 million per year of our sales tax revenue, which is a huge 17 percent gap in our funding that would have to be closed.

“That would give us a six year reprieve. The concern is that the big ‘if’ in all of this is will the federal government going along with the plan set forth by legislature (that would allow for the six year reprieve through another funding option). The wording in the bill requires the director of medicare, who works for the governor, to go and talk to the federal government about approving the fee structure the legislation sets up. The federal government could still say no. So, if that happens, it comes back to the State to try to find a resolution.”

The Commissioner added that his understanding was that in the original, executive version of the tax elimination, it allowed for 2.5 years of replacement tax money for Scioto County. Davis added that in discussions with the State about the loss of funding, he was informed that this document that he has not seen says it would take Scioto County 2.5 years to recover from the funding loss.

“That is a fallacy at the highest levels,” Davis stressed. “I don’t how they calculated that. I don’t how they figure that Scioto County can find $2.1 million in renewal taxes. We can’t legislate. We can’t change our tax structure on a whim, not like a municipality can. We can’t do that.”

Davis added that it would still be difficult for the County with the six year reprieve. The County simply is not ready to give up the fight yet.

“If the federal government does not approve it, it really sets us on a collision course with the Governor,” Davis stated.

He also stated that there are other options, including the taxation of private HMOs. This will allow the lowering of the MCO tax. This option would satisfy the federal government while allowing the continued funding of local governments.

“I don’t know why they won’t do that,” Davis said as he added that there is currently no tax on private HMOs. “That, to my understanding, is a fix. They have not done that, nor have they pursued it.”

Without a fix, the County faces cuts to both mandated and non-mandated programs.

“Non-mandated, we will have to take a very hard look at,” Davis stated. “There isn’t enough non-mandated programs that if we cut it all, it wouldn’t add up to $2.1 million. Mandated offices will see cuts… It’s a difficult position to be in. Scioto County would very hard to get to strong fiscal position. We are in a strong fiscal position. We will remain in a strong fiscal position.”

Davis continued to stress how much of a loss the elimination of non-mandated programs would be on the community. He explained that these programs do much for economic development from programs that support agriculture, which continues to be a major industry in Scioto County.

“One in every four acres in the county is farmland,” Davis explained.

This could end with the end of financial support for programs such as 4-H. Cuts would also impact environmental programs such as the Soil and Water Conservation District, which teaches the community about healthy eating, farming, water conservation and the importance of taking care of the environment.

Davis also stated that though there are no exact figures yet, without the tax funding, there will be cuts to mandated offices as well, offices the commissioner says have already been cut to the “bare bones.”

For now, the County waits to see the verdict handed down from those in the Capitol.

By Nikki Blankenship

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.

Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.