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How will GOP splits play out in Ohio in 2014?
Batchelder says Kasich's standing on the national stage will keep things relatively smooth

Karen Kasler
Gov. John Kasich and Statehouse leaders saw eye-to-eye on many issues, but parted on Medicaid and severance taxes.
Courtesy of FILE PHOTO
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Gov. John Kasich is likely to have a challenger in the GOP primary this year. And the governor and some fellow Republicans in the Legislature fell out over major issues last year, especially the expansion of Medicaid.

But Statehouse Bureau Chief Karen Kasler says Statehouse Republicans expect things to go smoothly this year, and Democrats are still fighting to have a voice.

LISTEN: Batchelder and Heard on 2013 and 2014 in the Statehouse

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A budget year is always a challenge. And the budget year of 2013 was difficult for House lawmakers on both sides. Republican Gov. John Kasich’s spending plan would have broadened the state sales tax, included a severance tax on big oil and gas drillers, and expanded Medicaid.

Those items created a conflict with House Republicans who had been very supportive of his first budget. House Speaker Bill Batchelder of Medina says he gets along very well with Kasich and supports his leadership, but says he made it clear that to the governor there were problems with his budget.

“The governor was concerned because I kept talking to him about I needed 60 votes. And finally he said to me, ‘Bill, why do you keep saying that?’ And I looked him in the eye and said, ‘Because I can override a veto.’”

Democrats were in an interesting position, too. They opposed the tax changes, including an income tax cut, but supported the severance tax and Medicaid expansion. House Minority Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard says she was disappointed those items were stripped from the budget by Republican leaders and that Democrats weren’t consulted.

“In those issues where there is an attempt for us to work together - Medicaid expansion being one of those – I think we’ve demonstrated … we have worked together with great success (as in) sentencing reform and collateral sanctions. But Medicaid expansion was really, really bumpy, and being in the room is not the same thing as being at the table.”

2014 battles expected over local tax hikes and state tax cuts
Kasich and Republican lawmakers have been very clear that the income tax cuts in this budget aren’t the end of their tax cutting plans. Both sides agree that’s likely to be a campaign issue. And Heard says it may not play as well as Republicans hope. 

“It depends on where they’re going to be cutting taxes. If we’re going to continue to make cuts that impact public education and our local communities, then absolutely that’s not going to be supported or responded to well, not just by my side of the aisle, but by Ohioans in general.”

GOP says it's ready to defend its position
Batchelder says Republicans are ready for criticisms about tax cuts, the hike in the state sales tax and changes that raised property taxes for some Ohioans.

“We sort of game-planned those discussions on the stump and obviously we’re pretty pleased with our position.”

And with the entire Ohio House and Gov. Kasich on the ballot, Batchelder says he expects the members of his caucus seeking re-election and the governor will have a good relationship this year. 

“He’s a national figure at this point, and that makes it easier for us to work together.”

Batchelder says measures dealing with Medicaid and medical care are top priorities for 2014.

Heard says Democrats want to deal with the economy and as she says investing in the middle class, and will likely talk more about transparency and JobsOhio. 

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