From the Statehouse
With the start of a new legislation session, the Ohio Legislature and elected officials are laying out plans and agenda for what all would like to accomplish in the next couple years. The following is a brief summary of several plans.
Tax Issues in the Soon-to-be-Released State Budget - Governor Kasich is expected to release his executive budget this coming week and there are expected to be a number of tax proposals included. The House Ways and Means Committee has started hearings this past week talking about tax reform ideas. Expected to be include are proposals to continue reducing the personal income tax and to replace the lost revenues with an increase in the oil and gas severance as well as an increase in tobacco taxes. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jeff McClain (R-Upper Sandusky) indicates a general interest at this point to decrease the income tax, but he says that the committee in general recognizes that revenues will have to come from other sources and the agreement with that issue is more difficult to achieve. As part of the discussion and hearings, Rep. Terry Boose (R-Norwalk) last session proposed the creation of a tax expenditure review committee in the general assembly to review all of Ohio’s taxes to make sure they continue to achieve their objectives. The chairman would like to have more discussion on this proposal.
Kasich Administration Budget Blueprint - In advance of the Budget the first week of February, the Kasich Administration has released a two-page "blueprint” outlining some of the plans. You can access Blueprint for a New Ohio to see what is included. Briefly, it indicates plans to eliminate income taxes for virtually all small businesses; more tax relief for low and middle-income Ohioans; focusing poverty assistance efforts on people and not on programs; working to break the poverty cycle before it starts through improved job placements and support to those who most need help; removing barriers for people who move up in income through assistance with child care and more efficient assistance processes; and efforts to hold government accountable through evaluation standards in many programs. Other items are expected to include increased cigarette taxes, an increase in the Commercial Activity Tax, and additional sales tax revenues, and higher oil and gas severance taxes. You can also read a one-page summary of Advancing Innovation in Higher Education on budget plans for higher education including bachelor degrees through community colleges, financial aid for summer semester, and funds linked to college credit in high school.
Senate Republicans Discuss Caucus Priorities for the new General Assembly - Senate President Keith Faberlast week discussed caucus priorities in the new session, citing a key interest with addressing toxic algae this session. A last ditch effort to pass legislation in the previous session died before action could be completed at the end of the year. The Senate President would like to go after most of what was included in HB 490 in the last session. Other issues include an interest in cutting student costs by 5% over the next biennium, a focused effort to contain costs with the already expanded Medicaid program, a coordinated workforce development effort, and further revisions to the clean energy law.
House GOP Legislative Priorities - Concurrently with Senate actions, Speaker Cliff Rosenberger outlined House GOP priorities for the coming session to include four policy "pillars” including energy, education, competitiveness, and health care. The energy issues will focus on technology, regulations, and tax concerns, including the toxic algae issue; education will work to see how the private sector can work with the education community to try to match students with in-demand jobs in Ohio; competitiveness will focus on tax issues, infrastructure and transportations as well as revising OhioMeansJobs to help the website better connect employers with job seekers; health care will focus on improving access to Medicaid and Worker Compensation systems.
Treasurer Josh Mandel - Plans to ask local governments and other entities to publish their finances on-line for transparency purposes. Treasurer Mandel also will focus attention on protecting the state financial system against cyber attacks.
Attorney General Mike DeWine - Will focus attention on police officer training. Part of his focus is that he learned barbers need 1,800 hours of training to become certified but police officers currently need only 605 hours.
Secretary of State Jon Husted. By working with the legislature on revised laws, Secretary Husted plans to cut business filing fees by 21%.
State Auditor Dave Yost - Intends to establish rules and standards on local government spending. In a separate piece of action, State Auditor Yost released an audit on the operation of ODNR cabins and campgrounds and recommended investments to upgrade and renovate many of these facilities. The auditor estimated that upgrading cabins on 8 state parks and completing campground improvements for better electric hook-up could generate more than $3.3 million in additional revenues for the state.
Governor Kasich State of the State Address In Wilmington on February 24. It was announced last week that Governor Kasich will once again take the State of the State Address on the road, this year to the Roberts Centre in Wilmington. After making his first address in Columbus in 2011, he has since traveled to Steubenville in 2012, Lima in 2013, and Medina in 2014 to make the address.