Ohio lawmakers react to Bush proposals

By MALIA RULON, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - Ohio Republican lawmakers pledged to support President Bush's State of the Union tax-cut proposals to revive the economy, but Democrats said the cuts would worsen the state's budget woes.

"Ohio is drowning in red ink," Rep. Sherrod Brown, a Lorain Democrat, said after the speech Tuesday night. "The last thing we should do is drain tax revenues from the states."

The delegation of 12 Republicans and six Democrats also split on their support for Bush's vow to use military force to disarm Iraq if necessary.

Bush's domestic agenda includes a $674 billion plan to revive the economy, nearly all of it devoted to tax cuts, and a $400 billion, 10-year plan to overhaul Medicare.

"If we're going to be competitive in the world of tomorrow, industry has to have all the latest technologies, and I think the tax-cut measures that encourage investment are very important to the future," said Rep. Ralph Regula, a Navarre Republican.

Democrats said economic recovery is not possible until states receive help from Washington.

"I had hoped to hear more specifics on economic recovery. I thought the president offered many more specifics internationally than he did domestically," said Rep. Marcy Kaptur, a Toledo Democrat.

Ohio officials have called on the federal government to offer relief from skyrocketing Medicaid costs that Gov. Bob Taft said will bankrupt the state if he does not cut the program's funding.

"The economic downturn has increased the strain on Medicaid, and it is simply irresponsible for us to pass the buck to state governments," said Brown, the senior Democrat on the subcommittee that oversees Medicare and Medicaid.

Bush didn't mention Medicaid in his speech, but Republican lawmakers said a prescription drug proposal that the president announced should help take strain off states. Under the president's plan, low-income seniors could get their drugs from federally funded Medicare instead of Medicaid, which uses state funds to pay for health care services for the poorest children, senior citizens and disabled.

"That alone will put a huge new life into the Medicaid program," said Rep. Pat Tiberi, a Columbus Republican. "It's a huge cost to the states that don't have a prescription drug program."

Regula, chairman of the House subcommittee that approves funding for health care and education programs, said he expects Congress to address Medicaid problems in a comprehensive health care bill.

Rep. Rob Portman, a Cincinnati Republican, said the president's plan to cap soaring medical malpractice insurance rates will keep many Ohio doctors from limiting their services or leaving the state. Bush urged Congress to pass reforms that prevent frivolous malpractice lawsuits.

Rep. John Boehner, chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, said Bush's plan to provide money to unemployed Americans for child care, transportation or job training will them find work faster.

Boehner, a Republican from West Chester, planned to introduce the president's plan as a bill on Wednesday.

Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Cleveland and other Democrats from the liberal Progressive Caucus said the president should spend more resources improving the minimum wage and extending unemployment benefits and less time planning a war with Iraq and giving tax cuts to the wealthy.

Bush said Saddam has shown "utter contempt" for the world community and must be held accountable.

Rep. Bob Ney of St. Clairsville and other Republicans said they support the president on Iraq.

"The world has waited 12 years for Saddam to disarm, and while I am hopeful, as the president is, that war can be averted, the burden continues to be on Saddam Hussein," he said.

But most Ohio Democrats said Bush has not convinced them a war with Iraq is necessary.

"The president told us what we have known about Saddam Hussein for the last 12 years. He gave us no new information, and certainly not a justification for sending our young men and women into a
war," said Rep. Ted Strickland, a Lucasville Democrat.

About 2,100 military reservists or guardsman from Ohio are on active duty or have been ordered to report as the United States continues to deploy troops to the Middle East.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)