Ohio governor signs budget including tax cut, anti-abortion provision

CLEVELAND (Reuters) - Ohio’s governor signed a two-year, $62 billion state budget on Sunday that seeks to spur economic growth with a reduction in personal income taxes and includes a provision that critics say will tighten restrictions on abortions in the state.

Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks during the CERAWEEK global energy conference in Houston March 7, 2012. REUTERS/Donna W. Carson

The budget, which was passed by a Republican-majority state legislature, includes a $2.6 billion reduction in personal income taxes which will be gradually lowered by a total of 10 percent over three years.

The tax cuts will be offset in part by an increase in the state sales tax rate to 5.75 percent from 5.5 percent.

The budget also includes a 50 percent tax break for small-business owners on their first $250,000 of income filed on personal tax filings.

Republican Governor John Kasich also left in place a controversial abortion provision added to the proposed budget bill at the last minute.

The provision effectively strips funding from Planned Parenthood, blocks public hospitals from arranging transfer agreements with abortion clinics and requires abortion providers to provide ultra sounds on women seeking abortions.

It also allows public funding for rape crisis clinics to be suspended if they counsel victims on abortion options.

Ohio has 12 clinics that perform abortions and opponents of the law say the new regulations could force many clinics to close.

“Today Governor Kasich enacted measures that prescribe medically unnecessary procedures, force doctors to mislead their patients and will force quality medical centers to close,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio.

Mike Gonidakis, president of Ohio Right to Life, praised Kasich’s decision. “Our motivation for pushing the law was so that state tax dollars are not used to fund abortions,” he said.

Ohio joins several other states, including Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas, where anti-abortion activists have focused their efforts pushing for new state restrictions on the procedure.

The budget will go into effect on Monday.

Reporting by Kim Palmer, Editing by Kevin Gray and Christopher Wilson