LIMA — County commissioners and other county-level officials from Allen, Auglaize, Shelby, Champaign and Logan counties joined area state legislators Friday for a meeting at Casa Lu Al in Lima to discuss issues affecting Ohio counties, especially the proposed elimination of Medicaid Managed Care Organization sales taxes to counties in Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal.
MCOs are private companies that provide Medicaid-funded healthcare services. As of 2009, MCO transactions are considered subject to both state and local taxes. According to the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, this tax represents over $940,000 in average annual revenue for Allen County, over $370,000 for Auglaize County, over $190,000 for Putnam County and over $450,000 for Shelby County. The elimination was included due to a federal mandate saying that Ohio could not collect taxes on both state and local levels for these transactions.
Kasich’s budget proposal includes a transitional aid payment to counties to counter the shortfall, but at a reduced amount for area counties, with Allen County to receive just under $500,000, Auglaize County to receive almost $165,000, Putnam County to receive just over $126,000 and Shelby County to receive just over $201,000. There are other counties, by contrast, that would receive a much larger payout than their average tax revenue.
“This is money that we rely on,” Shelby County Commissioner Julie Ehemann said. “Yes, it’s only been there for six years, but it replaced other funds that were jerked away from us, like local government funds. It isn’t a slush fund. It is money that we need to operate.”
Other legislative priorities for the CCAO for this session include addressing opiate-related pressures on counties, including increased workloads for child protective services, replacing old voting equipment and providing at least a 50 percent reimbursement for indigent legal defense cases.
“(It’s exciting) to have our state senator (Matt Huffman, R-Lima), and our three state representatives (Bob Cupp, R-Lima, Keith Faber, R-Celina, and Nino Vitale, R-Urbana) in our senate district here to hear from the commissioners on the issues that are important, not just for Allen County, but the surrounding counties,” Allen County Commissioner Cory Noonan said.
For Huffman, having this interaction with county officials is essential to ensuring that each level of government is doing its part to ensure an effective government for the people.
“What local governments do is different than what states do, and certainly different from what the federal government does,” he said. “The problem comes in the interaction with those three levels of government when one level starts doing what the other is supposed to be doing or taking the money that the other level is making and doing something else with it.”