Editor’s note: The article Julie Ehemann refers to below was not published by The Sidney Daily News.
To the editor:
I recently read the article, “Leaders frustrated over sales tax solution” with interest. I currently serve Shelby County as a Commissioner and also served as co-chair for CCAO’s (County Commissioner’s Association of Ohio) Budget Priorities Taskforce. The article detailed the loss of revenues all Ohio counties face through the loss of sales tax on Medicaid Managed Care Health Plans. As noted, Union County stands to lose $440,000 per year. This is very similar to my county of Shelby. What the article does not detail is what impacts counties throughout the State will feel with these cuts. As we face the opiates epidemic and crisis, we have seen impacts through almost every agency we fund. Our jails are filled with persons who are incarcerated due to drug-related crimes. The workload of our courts, our prosecutors and our public defenders has increased. In Shelby County, our budget for our Coroner has doubled over the last seven years and many counties have had budgets greatly impacted through the number of children being placed into foster care. These are all agencies administered at the county level. Commissioners in every county saw these new cuts as a huge step backwards. County Commissioners from throughout the State mobilized to reach out to our legislators to work to find a solution to this issue.
And that is where I became “frustrated” by comments made by Senator Burke. He stated “We have to have a mature discussion and come up with solutions.” Unfortunately, Senator Burke did not avail himself to the many discussions that County Commissioners had with various Representatives, Senators and the Administration. He accuses us of “stomping our feet” but fails to acknowledge that over 20 County Commissioners provided testimony to State House and Senate Committees during the budget process. He forgets that members of both houses were presented with letters and resolutions from 86 counties expressing the need for revenue replacement, and the many counties that had town halls that included their representatives in these mature discussions of budget needs. He outright ignores the solutions discussed between CCAO and members of both chambers at the state level. He then accused the County Commissioners Association of Ohio of disseminating “unfair, misleading and sometimes inaccurate talking points” to the members. He backed none of that up with facts. The fact is that CCAO retained experts in the field of CMS to help us and the legislature navigate our way to finding a solution. We had previous employees of CMS working with us ensuring our plan met required performance measures. Senator Burke again has no facts to back up his claims that the plan passed in the State budget would fail at the Federal level.
Senator Burke seems to believe that the exchange of the sales tax for a franchise fee would result in higher costs for the taxpayers. I would like to clarify that the proposal was revenue neutral and actually resulted in less revenue to the counties. We were willing to make that trade to avoid increasing costs to consumers. Unfortunately the removal of the sales tax will never be felt at the consumer level in reduced costs, but will definitely affect services in many counties once the transitional funding is gone.
I had hoped to discuss these issues with the Senator per his comments of having mature discussions but his staff has relayed to me the Senator “declined to meet.” I guess that is how Senator Burke defines having “a thoughtful process.”
I feel fortunate to work with many educated and dedicated Commissioners from throughout the state, including those in Senator Burke’s district. I just wish Senator Burke would open his door long enough to realize that as well.
Julie L Ehemann
2nd Vice-President to the Board
County Commissioner’s Association of Ohio