A long-running debate at the Statehouse has focused on the role that federal stimulus money played in former Gov. Ted Strickland’s last state budget.
From the day it was first introduced in February 2009, Republicans ripped Strickland’s budget for relying on billions in federal stimulus dollars to help Ohio shore its state budget.
The now-absent federal stimulus dollars are the chief reason, Republicans have long argued, that they are now forced to make gouging cuts in education and local government funds to keep the next state budget in balance.
House Democrats tried to turn the tables on that GOP argument during the seven-hour-long floor debate May 5, 2011, over the next state budget. They did so by noting that the state budget proposed by Republican Gov. John Kasich actually had more federal dollars in it then the one crafted by Democrats in 2009.
"I think it’s important to note that even accounting for the federal stimulus dollars, there are more federal dollars in this biennial than there are federal dollars in the previous biennial budget," said Rep. Jay Goyal, a Mansfield lawmaker. "I think that’s an important fact to note."
House Republicans immediately jumped on Goyal’s statement with Rep. Ron Amstutz, a Wooster Republican, even invoking PolitiFact Ohio saying that should be awarded a Pants on Fire rating.
House Democratic Caucus spokeswoman Melissa Fazekas pulled some numbers from Strickland’s current state budget, which runs through June 30, as well as Kasich’s proposal for the next state budget.
The House Democratic numbers — taken from the state budget summary put together by the Office of Budget and Management under Kasich — show a total of $6.9 billion in federal dollars in 2010 and $8.2 billion in 2011 deposited into Ohio’s general revenue fund. That’s a total of $15.1 billion in federal dollars over both years of Strickland’s budget.
Meanwhile, Kasich’s proposed budget for 2012-13 relies on $7.55 billion in 2012 and $8.49 billion in 2013. That’s a total of $16.04 billion — or about $940 million more than what Strickland had to used in his budget, according to the chart Democrats relied upon.
So Goyal’s right? Not so fast.
The chart on which House Democrats relied only compares the federal dollars in the state’s general revenue fund in both budgets.
And while that’s the usual place where federal dollars end up in state budgets, Strickland’s budget director Pari Sabety moved portions of the state’s Medicaid program "off-budget" in 2009, so not all the federal money went into the state’s general revenue fund.
In fact, a state budget document titled "estimated one-time revenue source" prepared by the Strickland administration has a notation marked "footnote D" concerning a pot of federal money known as enhanced Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, or FMAP. Basically, federal officials decided to reimburse states at a higher rate for Medicare and Medicaid costs than they normally do—picking up 73 cents of every dollar spent on medical care instead of the usual rate of 64 cents.
The footnote explains that only a small portion of that enhanced FMAP money was funneled into the state’s general revenue fund. "Under budget framework, an additional $1.3 billion in FY 2010 and $590 million in FY 2011 is deposited into non-GRF funds," the footnote says.
Put simply, there was nearly $1.9 billion in federal dollars in the last budget beyond what was in Ohio’s general revenue fund.
And that’s not all. That’s because federal officials added even more money to the enhanced FMAP program in September 2010—about $293 million funneled "off-budget" which was ladled out to Ohio hospitals, mental health providers and drug assistance for HIV positive patients as well as the state departments of aging and mental health.
Add this to our previous pile of federal money and you have about $17.3 billion in federal dollars that flowed into Ohio in the last budget cycle -- roughly $1.26 billion more than the budget proposed by Kasich.
Goyal’s statement did contain some element of truth, but the phrase he used was "more federal dollars" which should include all of the money coming from the federal government, not just funds flowing into the GRF. Not including the Medicaid dollars ignores a critical fact that would give the listener a different impression.
On the Truth-O-Meter, that mean’s Goyal’s statement rates as Barely True.
Editor's note: This statement was rated Barely True when it was published. On July 27, 2011, we changed the name for the rating to Mostly False.