Let’s Talk Transit

October 20th, 2014

Health Line in Cleveland

ODOT Hosts Five Regional Stakeholder Meetings on the Future of Transit in Ohio

Join the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) at one of five regional stakeholder meetings to help shape a long-term strategy for meeting the needs of Ohio’s transit riders today and in the future.

Trends show there is a definite rise in the need for convenient, affordable public transportation to jobs, medical appointments, shopping and recreational activities. Ohio’s transit agencies are struggling to fund existing service, let alone meet increasing demand. From light rail and bus service in large cities to rural van services, the Ohio Statewide Transit Needs Study is examining existing transit needs and drafting recommendations for better addressing them. ODOT needs your input, comments and ideas!

Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2-4 PM
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority
Board Room
1240 West 6th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113

Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2-4 PM
Hancock Family Center
1800 North Blanchard Street
Findlay, OH 45840

Thursday, Oct. 23, 2-4 PM
Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission
Scioto Room
111 Liberty Street
Columbus, OH 43215

Thursday, Oct. 30, 2-4 PM
Athens Community Center
701 East State Street
Athens, OH 45701

Friday, Oct. 31, 10 AM-12 PM
OhioMeansJobs Building
300 East Silver Street
Lebanon, OH 45036

Unable to attend? All meeting materials will be available online starting Oct. 21 at www.TransitNeedsStudy.ohio.gov. Comments accepted through Nov. 14.

Questions or comments? Email ODOT at Transit.Needs@dot.state.oh.us.


Greater Ohio 2012 Accomplishments

January 18th, 2013

We are proud of the accomplishments we have made in 2012. To fill you in on what’s been going on at GOPC’s office and throughout the state in the past year, below is a list of our accomplishments within our three priority policy areas: Urban Core and Neighborhood Redevelopment, Transportation and Sustainable Growth, and Regional Governance Reform. Together, redeveloping our urban centers, expanding our transportation options, and fostering regional cooperation will contribute to smarter, more sustainable growth, improving our quality of life and economic competitiveness in Ohio.


Raising Our Statewide Profile:

  • Ohio Properties Redevelopment Institute. GOPC hosted this innovative two-day forum that promoted solutions to vacant and abandoned properties. Nearly 200 local leaders from municipalities and non-profit community development organizations across the state attended.
  • Moving Ohio Forward Grant Program. The Ohio Attorney General’s office contracted with the GOPC to provide technical assistance to communities for the Moving Ohio Forward Grant Program, which supports Ohio’s communities undertaking activities to demolish abandoned and vacant residential properties.
  • Panels and Keynotes. GOPC presented on urban revitalization issues over 20 times to a variety of audiences including Ohio code enforcement officers, Cincinnati’s Foreclosure Group, Cleveland’s Vacant and Abandoned Property Action Council (VAPAC), and Heritage Ohio workshop attendees.
  • In the Media. In 2012, GOPC was quoted or cited over 50 times in Ohio’s major newspapers and other publications around the country. In one article about vacant properties, The Columbus Dispatch relied heavily on data and graphs produced by GOPC.

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GOPC, “Across the Spectrum” Think Tanks Unite Again

September 13th, 2012

Greater Ohio Policy Center is again collaborating with Center for Community Solutions and the Buckeye Institute, two other think tanks that span the political spectrum, renewing the call to examine the issue of tax expenditures, commonly known as “tax loopholes.”  Last week, the three partners issued a Press Release once again advocating for a Joint House-Senate Tax Expenditure Review Committee to examine and vet tax expenditures and subject these loopholes to “sunset revisions,” which would allow certain tax expenditures to expire after several years unless re-enacted by the General Assembly and approved by the Governor. 
“In the absence of guidelines for demonstrating effectiveness, and a schedule for periodic evaluation, these cannot be considered good public policy”, the three groups said in their Press Release.
This unique tripartite partnership began during last year’s debate over Ohio’s 2012-2013 budget, when the groups joined together to propose ways that Ohio policymakers could address the issue of tax expenditures.  This partnership attracted extensive state and national attention and spurred the highly successful “Across the Spectrum” conference, raising the level of public discourse by facilitating thoughtful discussions that avoided partisan platitudes and instead explored a range of policy solutions available to the state and nation.
GOPC and their partners commend Governor Kasich for his recent comments on the need to examine expenditures and the Ohio House of Representatives for convening a tax review committee last year.  These policymakers have brought back into public view the importance of adopting a comprehensive process for assessing Ohio’s loopholes.
Evaluating the costs and benefits of specific expenditures will ensure a transparent and defensible decision-making process.  In improving Ohio’s competitiveness and quality of life, any future expenditures—new or renewed—must have transparent criteria that ranks projects and clearly demonstrates a net benefit to tax payers.
“Our organizations often take different positions on how best to raise and allocate public resources, but we share the common goals of eliminating ineffective, counterproductive or outdated tax expenditures, and assuring that those remaining in Ohio tax law receive periodic scrutiny.”

The collaboration between Greater Ohio and their partners have already received attention by Trib Today, Salem News, the Akron Beacon Journal, and been featured on WVIZ NPR.

Kasich Signs Bill with Clean Ohio Funding

June 13th, 2012

On Monday, Governor Kasich signed House Bill 487—also known as the Mid-Biennial Review Bill [MBR]—including a $42 million allocation for the Clean Ohio Fund. Greater Ohio would like to thank the General Assembly and Gov. Kasich for supporting the Clean Ohio Fund, which contributes to the quality of life and economic development of many Ohio communities.

The MBR, subtitled the Management Efficiency Plan (MEP), is a new effort by Gov. Kasich and the Ohio General Assembly to evaluate and refine Ohio’s $55.7 billion budget at the midpoint of the two-year budget cycle, as opposed to solely at its conclusion. The stated purpose of the MEP is to “streamline operations, reduce costs and improve delivery of services for Ohio taxpayers.” The Governor used his line-item veto authority multiple times, but he kept appropriations for Clean Ohio Fund intact.

The Clean Ohio Fund is a state fund authorized by Ohio taxpayers in 2000, and again in 2008, to support brownfield revitalization, farmland preservation, green space conservation, and recreational trails. The allocated $42 million will be shared between Clean Ohio’s Green Space Conservation and Farmland Preservation programs. Communities can apply for the Clean Ohio funding, which requires a private match of 25-50 percent, and then applicants are scored and peer reviewed in a competitive process so that only the most qualified projects are ultimately funded. Private organizations and local communities become the owners of the projects and they are responsible for ongoing maintenance and improvement costs. Since the upfront cost of land is often prohibitive, the Clean Ohio Fund allows communities to protect land that they might not have been able to otherwise.
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Transit in Ohio: A look at ODOT

January 20th, 2012

By Gene Krebs

Greater Ohio Policy Center has been pointing out that Ohio Department of Transportation has a profound budget imbalance since October of 2005, with concern as to how it will impact the ability of Ohio to keep and attract jobs.  We commend Director Wray for his admission that ODOT has a profound funding problem.  Admitting you have a problem is the first step to solving the problem.  The current funding structure is simply not sustainable, and we need to have a discussion about how to move people and goods in the most cost effective and safe manner, and that might not always mean highways, sometimes it might mean transit, multimodal, rail, bike paths or even sidewalks.  Cars and trucks are not always the answer to every transportation question.  There could be lower cost answers in each unique situation.

Greater Ohio suggests that ODOT and the General Assembly form a task force, similar to the one we suggested in the 2011 ODOT budget, to examine the fiscal future of ODOT and all transportation in Ohio, and to make a recommendation by December 1, 2012.  This report, along with the pending performance audit report of ODOT that Greater Ohio proposed, could form the foundation of a new future for transportation in Ohio, and one that could form the basis of job creation and true GDP growth for decades.


Greater Ohio, Buckeye Institute, Center for Community Solutions Call for Tax Reform

June 17th, 2011

A recent collaboration between Greater Ohio and two other high-profile research organizations, the Buckeye Institute and Center for Community Solutions, reaffirmed the old adage about “strength in numbers.”

By joining forces to help spread our message about the critical need for tax reform in the state, we attracted the attention of numerous state and national media. They reported on our efforts, which included sending a proposal to and meeting with state administrative and legislative leaders. We called on them to create a bipartisan State and Local Tax Study Commission to analyze the current tax structure and initiate efforts to make much-needed state and local taxation reform in Ohio a reality.

Our group message – and a recommendation of Greater Ohio for some time – is that without change, the prospects for positioning Ohio for regrowth in the future are greatly diminished.

Coverage included articles and editorials in The Columbus Dispatch, The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Dayton Daily News, The Akron Beacon Journal, The Toledo Blade, and USA Today.

To read what the press had to say about our recent initiative, click on any of the links below:

USA Today

The Columbus Dispatch – Editorial

The Akron Beacon Journal – Editorial

Dayton Daily News – Editorial

The Columbus Dispatch

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Dayton Daily News

Toledo Blade

The Examiner


Horse and Buggy Tax Structure Holding Ohio Back

May 24th, 2011

Do you shop where you live?

It turns out that most Ohioans do a fair amount of shopping away from their home county.  A recent study completed by Greater Ohio, shows that 70 percent of counties did not capture the amount of sales tax revenue that that would be expected if the residents of the county did all their shopping in that same county.

Why does this matter?  It demonstrates that shopping patterns are regional, but our county-based sales tax structure is not.  This system rewards a minority of counties while hamstringing the majority, which creates unbalanced service provision and tax rates across the region, contributes to sprawl by incenting the development of new retail centers on greenfields, and priorities individual counties over capitalizing on regional strengths.

Take the Columbus area as an example.  The graph below shows how sales tax revenue capture changed in Franklin and Delaware counties with the introduction of Polaris.

A closer look at the broader region shows that despite the increase in spending in Delaware County between 1992 and 2009, the total change in spending for the region changed only slightly from $129 to $138 per capita, especially relative to increases in household income for the region during that time.

This arrangement creates a situation where counties with big, new malls thrive while most other places struggle.  All the while, however, the amount of retail spending within the broader region itself remains virtually the same.  In other words, this dynamic of shopping destinations moving around the region does not increase the state’s prosperity. Instead it just redistributes spending from one place to another and leaves places without major retail destinations without many options other than to raise taxes or cut services.

To modernize the taxation system to reflect the regional way we live and shop today, Greater Ohio is currently advocating for:

  • Legislation that makes regional revenue pooling permissive
  • Legislation that makes permissive mergers, consolidation, shared services, and alternative governance structures and eliminates legal and constitutional barriers to new structures of government.
  • Creation of a Governance Reform Commission to oversee and provide technical assistance to Ohio’s local governments as they adapt to the 21st century

The complete study can be found here.


Gene Krebs Testimony for House Bill 153

May 3rd, 2011

Every two years the state of Ohio develops a new budget to fund all state activities and many local activities through a variety of subsidies.  In fact the state only keeps 15% of the tax money that flows through their treasury and sends the remaining 85% back to the local governments.  For seventy years the state has been distributing money to local governments without sufficient consideration for cost efficiencies.

Greater Ohio has recently testified in the House Finance Committee that Ohio needs better data to understand how to achieve these cost efficiencies .  Better data will be the key in transforming Ohio’s communities to become more competitive in the global economy.  Currently Ohio’s fractured and duplicative layers of government undercut Ohio’s economic competitiveness, and the most important tool to reversing these damaging trends is the accumulation and distribution of better data.  In order for each taxpayer to get the best best bang for their buck, better data is needed to know where and how cut, merge, consolidate or share.

For more information on this topic, read Gene Krebs’ complete testimony.  If you’re not interested already, here’s a direct quote from Gene’s testimony, “I can give more data about Kate Middleton’s dress than I can about most Ohio government, state and local.”

Greater Ohio Releases State Budget Response & Local Government Restructuring Toolkit

April 14th, 2011

Greater Ohio applauds the proposed 2012-13 budget for taking a bold first step in challenging local governments to modernize, but cautions that Ohio needs more tools to realize the vision of more efficient local government and to ensure a return to prosperity for Ohio.

Recently the 2012-13 State Operating Budget was released in which bold proposals set into motion the streamlining and cost reduction of government operations, especially among local governments.   In a response released by Greater Ohio– The 2012-13 State Budget Response and Local Government Restructuring Toolkit– we agreed that the status quo is not a winning strategy and to move Ohio’s economy into the 21st century, increased efficiency and savings among local governments are needed.

However, to return Ohio to prosperity, budget cuts MUST be combined with strategic and targeted investments; cuts alone will not bring about a climate of prosperity.  Our response recommends legislative adjustments, new pieces of legislation, and the creation of some new state programs and policies to smooth the transition from the existing, antiquated structure of local governance to a modernized one.

We strongly recommend that the 2012-13 budget bill and subsequent legislation incorporate the following tools:

  1. Create a Governance Reform Commission to oversee the modernization of Ohio’s local governments by providing innovative leadership on governance reform, collecting data on local governments to help set efficiency standards, and offering technical assistance for local governments that are merging or initiating other new governance structures
  2. Create a framework for pooling resources regionally to pave the way for robust regional economic development by creating a regional revolving loan fund for needed infrastructure funding and economic development projects.
  3. Make permissive mergers, consolidation, shared services, and alternative governance structures and eliminate any legal and constitutional barriers. This could provide for a merger of city and county jurisdictions that results in consolidated service districts and governance, increased value for the taxpayer and a better business climate.
  4. Develop a protocol for collecting data on local governments’ costs and level of services, like the Cupp report for education, so that the Governance Reform Commission can create efficiency standards, evaluate the performance of local governments, and develop other indicators of performance.

In research conducted by GO and the Brookings Institution, we found:

  • 86 percent of states have fewer governments per square mile than Ohio
  • Ohio has 41.3 local governments per county and the national average is 27.9 local governments per county
  • Ohio has moved from 9th highest in local tax burden to 6th highest among the fifty states, while the state burden has stayed stable at 33rd
  • Ohio ranks 22nd nationally in instructional payroll spending, but its non-instructional payroll is 8th highest nationally (as a percentage of personal income)

It is clear that dramatic measures are needed to make Ohio average.  Reducing and eliminating duplication in services will save money and free up resources Ohio can use to make strategic investments in assets to grow our economy.  Fixing congested freeway interchanges, seeding venture capital investments or supporting anchor institutions have significant multiplier effects that will allow Ohio to realize the Governor’s vision of competing anywhere in the world.  The underlying structure of local government in Ohio must change, and the State should drive this change.

To see our full analysis and a longer menu of policy tools that can be used to foster the necessary restructuring of local government, please see our 2012-13 State Budget Analysis and Local Government Restructuring Toolkit.