COLUMBUS -- The Republican head of the Ohio Senate expects Gov. John Kasich's Medicaid expansion plan to move forward during next week's Controlling Board meeting, where members will decide whether to grant authority to spend federal funds headed to the state for health care services to more needy residents.
"I would be surprised if the governor would go forward if he didn't have an idea of what the votes were," Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) told reporters Tuesday.
Faber also said the governor has the authority to proceed with the expansion, via executive order. Absent the Controlling Board action, federal funds will end up in the wrong budget account and can't be spent for their intended purpose.
"Controlling Board doesn't approve Medicaid expansion," Faber said. "... If we don't move the money from the federal funds account and authorize it to go over to the Medicaid account, Medicaid goes bankrupt. ... I would imagine that the Controlling Board on Monday will give the governor authority to move from that federal line to the state line."
Faber's comments came days after the Kasich administration announced the Controlling Board option after failing to gain enough votes in the full Ohio House and Senate to increase Medicaid eligibility to residents living at 138 percent of the federal poverty level.
Proponents say the move will provide health care to upward of 275,000 residents, with the federal government covering all of the initial costs and most of the later ones.
But opponents view it as an endorsement of President Obama's signature health care law and out-of-control federal spending.
The federal government has already signed off on expanded Medicaid in Ohio; Controlling Board approval is needed to enable state officials spend the extra federal money for Medicaid purposes.
That board includes seven members -- four Republican lawmakers and two Democrats, plus Kasich's appointed president.
The makeup likely means at least one Republican member will have to vote in favor of the Medicaid appropriation, since Dem-ocrats support the move. None of the four sitting GOP members have committed support publicly, and the head of the powerful House finance committee has voiced caution at the administration's chosen path.
"I have grave concerns about the place, the time and the substance of this proposed Controlling Board action," Rep. Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster) said in a released statement late last week. "Based on our solid track record of passing tough bills, I would expect a far superior and more creative solution by legislative enactment than what I fear may result from effectively crimping the legislative process."
Neither chamber has indicated substitutions for Monday's Controlling Board meeting.
Faber told reporters Tuesday that the two Republican senators on the panel haven't said they won't be able to participate.
Faber also said he has not directed his members to vote any particular way on the issue.
"I said serve your constituents, serve your state, do what you believe's in the best interest - the same thing I tell our member when we put them on committees," he said, adding later, "I have not encouraged my two members... for or against. I've encouraged them to study the issue, vote what they believe...."