GOPC Testifies on Transportation Budget in House Subcommittee

February 16th, 2017

Recently, Greater Ohio’s Manager of Government Affairs, Jason Warner, had the opportunity to testify before the House Finance Subcommittee on Transportation regarding House Bill 26, the state transportation budget for FY2018-2019. The subcommittee held hearings throughout the week on the proposed budget, which provides appropriations for programs funded with motor vehicle fuel taxes and registration fees (primarily in the Departments of Transportation and Public Safety.

GOPC full testimony is below and can also be found in PDF format here. You may also review all the testimony which the subcommittee heard on the committee’s website.

 

House Finance – Transportation Subcommittee
House Bill 26: State Transportation Budget | Interested Party Testimony
Jason Warner, Greater Ohio Policy Center
February 9, 2017

Chairman McColley, Ranking Member Reece and members of the Transportation Subcommittee, I want to thank you for providing me this opportunity to speak to you today about transportation in Ohio and the state’s transportation budget for FY2018-19.

My name is Jason Warner and I am the Manager of Government Affairs at the Greater Ohio Policy Center. Greater Ohio is a nonprofit nonpartisan organization that is valued for its data-driven research. Our mission is to champion revitalization in Ohio to create economically competitive communities.

As I am sure you are aware, Ohio is a cornerstone of our nation’s transportation infrastructure. I would like to focus my testimony today on what Greater Ohio sees as a policy platform to support a robust, competitive transportation system that will continue to keep Ohio at the forefront of meeting the increasing demands for a 21st Century transportation system for a 21st Century economy. We do not consider these to be aspirational goals, but rather a blueprint and effective strategic plan.

I would like to begin my remarks today with an overview of public transportation in Ohio. Ohio boasts a strong and productive public transportation network, which includes 28 urban and 33 rural systems. ODOT data shows that over 115.1 million passenger trips were provided by the state’s transit systems in 2013, the most recent year statistics are available.

Yet, 27 counties in Ohio feature no form of public transportation (either fixed route or on-demand service) and the state spends only 63 cents per capita for public transit. That is why Ohio ranked 38th in the nation in terms of state investment in public transportation, below North Dakota. It’s worth noting, that among Ohio’s neighboring states, the state ranks ahead of only Kentucky:

  • Pennsylvania – 9th ($85.55 per capita) 
  • Michigan – 15th ($24.33 per capita) 
  • Indiana – 19th ($8.57 per capita) 
  • West Virginia – 32nd ($1.50 per capita) 
  • Ohio – 38th ($0.63 per capita) 
  • Kentucky – 42nd ($0.34 per capita) 

Only 2% of ODOT’s budget is dedicated to public transportation, which is why the department’s own 2014 Transit Needs Study found that current service does not meet demand. Ohio’s peer states dedicate between 10-20% of their state transportation budgets to transit and the state needs to do much to make up for this deficiency. Public transportation is critical to a number of sectors in Ohio, including the elderly, disabled, and is a key component in successfully supporting the state’s priority of job creation, job growth, and workforce development.

We thank Director Wray for his leadership on this issue. Through his efforts and those of the team at the Ohio Department of Transportation, the governor’s budget proposed a substantial increase in funding for public transportation over the next two years. However, as the ODOT Transit Needs Study acknowledged, the backlog of capital needs is great and will require substantial support. There are several ways to address that gap.

Increase Federal Highway Administration Funding for Public Transportation

One option, which involves a simple reprioritization of goals and projects at the Department of Transportation is the idea of flexing Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) dollars.

Flexing FHWA dollars reallocated federal funding Ohio already receives. At present, the state flexes around $23 million per year for public transportation purposes. House Bill 26 proposes to increase this amount by $10 million per year, to $33 million annually. This is a significant increase in funding and we applaud the move by the administration to increase this support, which will help support the purchase of new rural transit vans and full sized buses.

Greater Ohio Policy Center believes that this support would be greatly enhanced with a commitment by the legislature and Department of Transportation to flex an additional $17 million annually, boosting the total amount of flexed FHWA dollars to $50 million per year of the biennium. Doing so will not adversely impact ODOT and its primary mission, as outlined recently by Director Wray in his testimony to the House Finance Committee, which is to “to take care of what we have.”

Setting aside a total of $50 million in FHWA funding to public transit will result in 7.5 fewer miles of highway expansion, or 24 miles of highway repaired per year. For perspective, ODOT paved 5,564 lane miles in 2015.

Allocating $50 million per year of FHWA fund to transit-related capital investments will have negligible impact on Ohio’s crucial highway maintenance and construction programs, while significantly improving safety, performance, and use of Ohio’s public transportation systems.

Create a Dedicated Funding Stream for Public Transportation

Flexing FHWA funding is just one option Ohio has to support Ohio’s public transportation network. Another option, which will require action on the part of the legislature, is to create a dedicated funding stream for public transportation.

Nationwide, 25 states along with the District of Columbia dedicate fees and taxes for the exclusive use of public transit. This, in turn, provides a relatively reliable source of assured funding for these systems. While local transit systems can seek support for dedicated sales tax funding from local voters, it is still not sufficient to meet all needs, and thus most systems rely on funding from the state.

There are several possible sources Ohio could dedicate to support transit-related equipment and vehicle investments; examples of potential funding sources include. At Greater Ohio, we believe Ohio should consider dedicated funding derived from the sales tax collected on rental vehicles, a revenue source that is largely paid by out-of-state visitors to Ohio. By dispersing the equivalent amount of sales tax collected on rental vehicles to fund public transportation, Ohio would take a major step forward in assisting Ohio’s existing transit systems modernize and expand to meet the growing demands for service statewide.

There are other options available beyond the rental vehicle sales tax, including a tax on motor vehicle sales or a fee on the sale of new tires, among others. Regardless of the source, dedicated funding is an important and necessary step forward if Ohio is to have a modern, competitive system.

Dedicated funding for capital improvements will increase the safety and reach of Ohio’s transit agencies. In addition, dedicated funding will help to expand Ohio’s existing transit services, including helping to reach residents in the 27 mostly rural counties that lack access to any form of public transportation.

Adopt and Implement a Statewide Active Transportation Policy

Public transportation is just one aspect of a robust transportation network which Ohioans have come to expect and rely upon. But as we near the beginning of the third decade of the 21st Century, we must look beyond four wheeled transportation as being the sole aspect of the transportation network.
Every day in Ohio, 2 pedestrians and 1 bicyclist dies or is seriously injured in roadway accidents.

Nationally, elderly people and children are at greater risk of pedestrian fatalities than other age groups. A 2015 analysis of 37 active transportation projects across the country determined the projects avoided a total of $18.1 million in collision and injury costs in one year alone. An active transportation policy that ensures state roadways and municipal streets that receive ODOT investment can be safely traveled by all users’ needs to be implemented.

Active transportation, by definition any human-powered transportation system such as walking or bicycling, is increasing in frequency across the state for a variety of reasons. Adoption of a policy that would be sensitive to context (rural vs. suburban vs. urban) and that would facilitate the safe and efficient movement of people and goods is key. At present, 33 states have an active transportation policy. Agencies such as ODOT and the Ohio Department of Health have been working on a policy for some time. I recently had the opportunity to share this plea with both the Joint Task Force on Transportation Issues and the Joint Education Oversight Committee, as part of its review of school transportation issues, and share it with you now in the hope that this committee will urge the department to pursue this policy on a statewide basis and ensure safe travel for all Ohioans.

Comprehensive Funding Reform of the ODOT Budget

As I have previously mentioned, Ohio is a key component in our national transportation network. Ohio’s interstate highway system is the 12th largest in the nation, and ranks 5th in overall traffic volume and 4th in truck traffic volume. Ohio boasts the 2nd largest inventory of bridges in the nation. Beyond roadways, Ohio also ranks 4th nationally in freight rail mileage, hosting 35 freight railroads and 5,305 miles of rail. Ohio’s maritime ports saw 48,267,276 short tons of cargo traded in 2013, and features 7 ports ranked in the top 100 nationally that year.

Yet, in spite of these impressive statistics, the American Society of Civil Engineers has graded Ohio’s 125,000 plus miles of roads a ‘D’, finding that 43% of the state’s roadways are in critical, poor, or fair condition. Of greater concern is a finding that 2,242 of the state’s 27,015 bridges (8% of total bridges), are ‘structurally deficient.’ The overall cost to motorists in the state, the personal cost of driving on roads in need of repair, is $3.3 billion per year, which amounts to $413 per motorist.

Adequately maintaining and upgrading all modes of transportation in Ohio is becoming a challenge, as there are not enough resources available to ensure this is done effectively. The cost of transportation materials and equipment has increased substantially in the last decade, while local, state and federal funds have flat-lined. This is not a problem that is unique to Ohio, and ODOT should be lauded for the work it has been able to accomplish in light of these challenges.

That said, Ohio needs to take a serious look at these challenges going forward, and can look close by to see an effective model that is meeting the needs of the public and private sector in a strategic manner.

In 2012, Pennsylvania had been found to have the most dire of infrastructure systems in the nation; the bridges were rated as the most structurally deficient, roadways were crumbling and there was a growing, unmet demand for public transportation. Through a comprehensive 5-year transportation budget package enacted in 2013, Pennsylvania is now producing $2.1 billion in additional funds and recalibrating resources to better support all modes of transportation. The state has now adopted a Fix-It-First Policy that focuses on funding repairs and maintenance programs on existing infrastructure, doing more to improve asset management and limiting capital expansions.

Like Ohio, Pennsylvania restricts its motor fuels tax to highways and bridges, so in order to provide for the needs of additional transportation modes like transit, rail, aviation, and maritime ports, the state instituted new fees and aggregates small increases on existing taxes and fees to provide additional funding to expand transit services, modernize ports and airports and generate additional revenue for traditional maintenance programs. Among these revenue generators were:

  • A new $1 fee on all new tires sold 
  • A higher fine for lapsed vehicle insurance in lieu of license suspension 
  • A flat $150 fine for disobeying traffic control devices 
  • A $2 per day vehicle rental fee 
  • A 3% vehicle lease tax 
  • A clear formula for assessing the gas tax on alternative fuel vehicles 
  • A switch from taxing at the pump to taxing “at the rack”

One of these elements is already included in House Bill 26. A provision in the bill moves the point at which the motor fuel tax is applied from the point when the fuel is received to, generally, the terminal or refinery rack, affecting who is required to report and pay the tax.

GOPC believes that other elements of the Pennsylvania reform package can and should be considered in Ohio, in order to ensure the state’s economic stability in the years ahead.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is crucial that Ohio support and maintain a system supporting all modes of transportation. Such a robust, competitive system as outlined here today can serve as a blueprint for addressing our state’s critical infrastructure needs while simultaneously enhancing Ohio as a place where businesses can thrive and where people want to live.

Chairman McColley and members of the Transportation Subcommittee, thank you for your time and thoughtful consideration. I am happy to answer any questions you may have.

Season’s Greetings! GOPC’s 2016 Accomplishments and a 2017 Preview

December 20th, 2016

Staff holiday pic 16

Pictured from left: Jason Warner, Sheldon Johnson, Alex Highley, Meg Montgomery, Torey Hollingsworth, Jon Honeck, Alison Goebel, and John Collier

 

Dear Friends,

From everyone at the Greater Ohio Policy Center, we wish you a safe and enjoyable holiday season!

Throughout 2016, GOPC has been a leader in championing revitalization and sustainable growth in Ohio, ensuring the state is equipped with policies and practices that create robust cities and regions. With so much happening around Ohio, the past twelve months have proven to be busy and rewarding for GOPC in equal measure. We introduced Alison Goebel as our new Executive Director following the departure of Lavea Brachman, and in conjunction with this smooth transition, we achieved many important goals and started planning for even greater success next year. In 2016, we:

  • Published original research reports on many critical revitalization issues in Ohio, including:

o   Akron Urban Health and Competitiveness Report finds that Akron is at a crossroads for further growth and economic development.  This work received extensive coverage from news media, including Akron Beacon Journal, Cleveland Plain Dealer, and WCPN

o   Transportation Modernization Memos analyze strategies that improve multimodal transportation and underscore the outsized economic benefits of implementing policies that support all modes

o   Credit Gaps in Opportunity Neighborhoods assesses redevelopment needs and highlights the barriers to revitalization in many of Ohio’s opportunity neighborhoods

o   Green Infrastructure for Stormwater Control analyzes grey and green water and sewer infrastructure and highlights modern, cost-effective strategies for maintaining aging stormwater systems

o   Ohio’s Small and Mid-Sized Legacy Cities highlights the serious economic and demographic challenges facing smaller legacy cities – received extensive coverage from news media, including WKSU Chillicothe Gazette, and Youngstown Business Journal 

  • Hosted a successful Webinar, attended by over 150 people, examining how Ohio’s smaller legacy cities from Akron to Zanesville have fared over the past 15 years
  • Presented our work at over 25 conferences and meetings in Akron, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Marietta, Toledo, Washington DC, and Youngstown
  • Testified at the statehouse on state policy on issues concerning revitalization including active transportation, foreclosure reform, and brownfield redevelopment
  • Launched brand new Water and Sewer Infrastructure and Smaller Legacy Cities web resources with up-to-date news, original research, and previews of upcoming reports

Coming in 2017…

In 2017, we will build on this momentum and to continue to underscore the importance of Ohio’s cities as the economic drivers of the state. With partners from around the state and nation, we look forward to continuing to research and advocate for policies that revitalize neighborhoods, diversify transportation systems, modernize water and sewer infrastructure, and build strong cities and regions in Ohio.

We can’t wait to host our 2017 Summit, Investing in Ohio’s Future: Maximizing Growth in our Cities and Regions on March 7th & 8th in Columbus. The Summit will explore best practices in financing and accelerating comprehensive and sustainable growth in communities throughout Ohio. We are meticulously planning an exciting and informative event that we predict will be our best Summit yet. We hope you join us!

If you believe in creating vibrant, sustainable cities and regions in Ohio, we invite you to support GOPC with a year-end contribution. We are grateful for your support.

Warm wishes for 2017,

ag signature

Alison Goebel and the Greater Ohio Policy Center Team

 

Ohio General Assembly: 2016 Election Review, Lame Duck, and Upcoming Budget

November 16th, 2016

 By Jason Warner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

While much of the focus of the 2016 elections has been at the national level, voters across Ohio cast ballots last Tuesday on down ticket races to elect members of the 132nd Ohio General Assembly. Now that the dust has settled, we can look ahead to the new General Assembly, which will take office on January 3, 2017. The new legislative session will include Governor John Kasich’s final state budget and will prelude the 2018 statewide election when Ohioans will elect Mr. Kasich’s successor and other statewide executive officers.

Prior to the election, Republicans in the state legislature enjoyed a majority of 65/34 in the Ohio House and 23/10 in the Ohio Senate. Defying expectations, Republicans in the state legislature gained one seat each in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate, increasing their majorities to 66/33 in the House and 24/9 in the Senate. Both majorities are now large enough to override any vetoes which may be issued by Governor Kasich and to pass legislation as emergency measures (allowing them to take effect immediately as opposed to 90 days after executive approval), without the necessary support of legislative Democrats.

  StatehouseBirdseye

  Ohio Statehouse

The short term impact of the election at this stage is hard to determine. GOPC will be attentive to leadership changes and will continue working with members on both sides of the aisle to advance policies on urban and neighborhood revitalization, development of a diverse transportation system and modernization of the state’s water and sewer infrastructure. GOPC has already been reaching out to members of the General Assembly to highlight policy initiatives and will be working with members to ensure these issues are emphasized in budget meetings and other legislative conversations.

Before the new General Assembly is seated in January, the current session will wrap up with lame duck session, when any remaining bills that are poised for legislative passage will be completed and sent to Governor Kasich for his approval. Since political upheaval in the state legislature did not occur, most observers expect that any lingering issues that are not in need of immediate action will be held off until the start of the new session. However, Senate President Keith Faber said recently, “If you have any bills out there…pay attention. Anything can happen.”

Several bills GOPC has been tracking could see action during lame duck. HB482 (Dever) makes changes to the calculation of the exempt value of improved property subject to a community reinvestment area exemption. The bill clarifies the calculation of the exempt value of property subject to a brownfield remediation exemption while authorizing the filing of a complaint with the county auditor challenging the assessed value of fully or partially exempt property. GOPC has worked with Representative Dever on this bill and the measure is highly likely to see action during the next month.

SB333 (Hite) makes changes to laws relating to environmental protection and could also move during lame duck. While SB333 has yet to receive a hearing, the bill was a priority for Governor Kasich earlier this year. The bill complements HB512 (Ginter), which passed earlier in 2016 and established requirements governing lead and copper testing for community water systems and revised the law governing lead contamination from plumbing fixtures. Both bills emerged in response to recent water crises in Flint, Michigan and Sebring, Ohio.

SB235 (Coley/Beagle) offers an incentive to property owners to enhance land sites for future business and development, and ultimately encourage job growth throughout the state. GOPC testified on SB235 while the bill was pending in the Senate Ways & Means Committee in April, expressing support for the bill’s intent to spur economic development. However, GOPC believes a statewide “automation” of offering tax incentives could result in negative side effects. GOPC will seek to modify the bill, which passed the Senate and should see action in the House during lame duck.

 

*Names listed in parentheses are the legislators who are chief bill sponsors

 

Congress considers changes to EPA revolving loan formulas: Ohio may lose ground

July 6th, 2016

By Jon Honeck, GOPC Senior Policy Fellow

Background

Each year Congress appropriates funds for the U.S. EPA to provide capitalization grants for state revolving loan funds for wastewater treatment.  In Ohio, this fund is known as the Water Pollution Control Loan Fund (WPCLF).   The Ohio EPA sets priorities for the fund according to state needs and federal guidelines.  Local communities submit applications for loans to help finance wastewater treatment plant, sewer system upgrades, or conversions of septic systems to centralized sewage collection.  Ohio’s allotment of the total appropriation is set at 5.7% of the total appropriation amount; the state received $78.5 million in 2016. The annual subsidy allows the WPCLF to offer interest rates below standard market rates.  When combined with loan repayments, the fund can offer substantial amounts of financing.  In 2015, it made a record $759.6 million in loans. 

Congress orders a review

In 2014, Congress passed a major overhaul to the Clean Water Act.  This legislation, known as the Water Resources Development and Reform Act, mandated that the EPA review the allocation formula for the Clean Water Act revolving loan program.  The formula had changed little since the program was created in 1987.  At that time, the formula roughly reflected states’ share of the national population and share of the Clean Watersheds Needs Survey. 

Congress asked the US EPA to determine whether the formula addresses the water quality needs of states based on: (1) the most recent Clean Watersheds Needs Survey (CWNS); and (2) other information that the agency determined appropriate.  The CWNS takes place every four years.  In the 2012 survey, Ohio wastewater utilities identified $14.6 billion in capital projects that needed to be addressed over a 20-year period.  (Click here to access the 2012 CWNS).

Potential Revisions to the Formula

The US EPA presented its report to Congress in May, 2016.  It can be accessed here.  The agency’s main conclusion is that “the current allotment does not adequately reflect the reported water quality needs or the most recent census population for the majority of States” (emphasis in original, p. 5).    The report considers four basic factors that could be used in a revised formula:

  • Clean Watershed Needs Survey (CWNS, which the agency admits underestimates water quality needs)
  • Resident Population from the 2010 U.S. Census
  • Water Quality Impairment Component Ratio (WQICR), an existing database documenting pollution in rivers, lakes, and streams, derived from data submitted by the states; and,
  • Ratio of revolving loan fund assistance to the federal capitalization grant over the past ten years (to reward states that have increased project funding by leveraging their federal grants as much as possible);

Using these factors, the report considers three possible options for a new formula.  Each option would limit a state’s potential loss to 25% and its potential gain to 200%. 

OPTION FACTORS and FORMULA WEIGHTS
1 2012 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey (70%), 2010 population (30%)
2 2012 CWNS (50%), 2010 population (30%), WQICR (20%)
3 2012 CWNS (50%), 2010 population (30%), WQICR (10%), Ratio of assistance to federal grant (10%)

Ohio’s allocation would decline

Ohio fares poorly in all three scenarios, mostly because its share of the national population has fallen by over a full percentage point in the last 30 years, to about 3.7% of the national total.  Interestingly, Ohio’s share of the Clean Watersheds Needs Survey has fallen only slightly, reflecting the large amount of EPA-mandated combined sewer overflow work that must be done.   All three scenarios would yield double-digit declines in Ohio’s allotment, with option 1 creating an 18.2% decline, and options 2 and 3 at the maximum reduction of 25%.   In Program Year 2016, a 25% reduction would have meant a loss of nearly $20 million in federal funding. 

What happens now?

The scenarios in the report are only suggestions.  Congress would have to pass legislation to modify the current formula.  Formulas that did not have a “stop-loss” rule of 25% could have even greater effects on Ohio’s allocation.  Significant federal funding cuts would make it more difficult for the WPCLF to provide low interest rate loans to Ohio communities at a time when sewer rates are rising and affordability is becoming an issue.  It would become especially difficult to offer principal forgiveness options to Ohio’s poorest communities.  These communities already face reduced federal funding options from cuts to the Community Development Block Grant program.  Between 2000 and 2014, average Ohio sewer charges increased by 85 percent, more than twice the rate of consumer inflation.[1]  In a 2015 report on infrastructure needs, GOPC identified replacement and upgrades to water and sewer infrastructure as critical needs that span Ohio’s cities and villages of all population sizes.  Key stakeholders in the area should make every effort to inform Congress about the importance of maintaining Clean Water Act revolving loan program funding. 

[1] Author’s analysis of average user charges from Ohio EPA, 2014 Water and Sewer Rate Survey.  Consumer Price Inflation increased by 37 percent.

Water Quality Bill Released by Governor’s Office

April 14th, 2016

This week, the Governor’s mid-biennium review budget bill related to water systems testing was introduced.  HB512 (Ginther-R) focuses on four major reform areas.

 First, it proposes new and stricter guidelines for testing lead in drinking water.

 Second, it proposes to shorten the timelines for the Ohio EPA and water system owners to notify affected residents of test results.

 Third, it proposes to extend the maximum repayment schedule for loans taken out in service of renovating or constructing wastewater treatment systems to 30 years, making these loans more affordable; it also proposes to expand the types of projects eligible for financing through state programs.

 Last, it proposes to provide more grant dollars to be used to replaced lead pipelines in schools.

 GOPC applauds Governor Kasich and the Legislature for pro-actively offering more and stronger tools to Ohio’s local communities as they work to address lead in Ohio’s water systems.  Mitigating outdated and dangerous pipes are one important component reforming and modernizing Ohio’s water and sewer infrastructure systemsFollow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest updates on this bill and other legislation we are tracking.

GOPC Legislative Update January 2016

January 29th, 2016

By Lindsey Gardiner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

The following grid is designed to provide you with insight into the likelihood of passage of the legislation we are monitoring. Please note that due to the fluid nature of the legislative process, the color coding of bills is subject to change at any time. GOPC will be regularly updating the legislative update the last Thursday of every month and when major developments arise. If you have any concerns about a particular bill, please let us know.

January Leg. Update Grid

Bills Available Online at www.legislature.ohio.gov

 

Updates on Key Bills: greater-ohio-flag

greater-ohio-flag HB 303 UPDATE: HB 303 continues to move smoothly through the legislative process and was referred to the Senate Financial Institutions Committee on January 20th. With the Ohio Housing Finance Agency’s support of HB 303, GOPC is optimistic members within the Senate will aptly receive the bill. GOPC offered Interested Party testimony on behalf of HB 303 and plans to continue offering support as it proceeds through committee within the Senate.

greater-ohio-flag HB 340 UPDATE: GOPC is happy to report that HB 340 was signed into law on December 22nd, just 9 days before the Local Government Innovation Council (LGIC) was set to expire. As we reported in December, HB 340 contained more than an emergency extension of the LGIC as it soon became known as a budgetary corrections bill as well. GOPC commends the Legislature for coming together to extend the LGIC, which has provided loans and grants for local government innovation projects to hundreds of communities across the state.

 greater-ohio-flag HB 233 UPDATE: HB 233 continues to move through the legislature as it was scheduled for a second hearing in the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Five witnesses testified as proponents to the bill, which included Youngstown State University President Jim Tressel; Shaker Heights Mayor Earl Leiken, the Canton Regional Chamber of Commerce, and the COO of the City of Toledo Eileen Granata. GOPC has offered interested party testimony for HB 233 while it was being vetted by the House, and we look forward to offering interested party testimony in a future hearing.

 greater-ohio-flag SB 232 UPDATE: Earlier this week, the Senate Government Oversight and Reform Committee heard proponent testimony for SB 232. The Ohio State Bar Association was the only organization that offered testimony in support of the bill. Currently, there is no legal protection between ex-spouses for real estate that passes by way of a transfer-on-death (TOD) affidavit or deed. SB 232 intends to bring TOD affidavits and deeds for real estate in line with other areas of the Revised Code. GOPC commends Senator Kevin Bacon (R-Franklin) for championing this corrective legislation and plans to offer support of the bill that will help establish consistency with respect to the legal effects of divorce, dissolution, and annulment on beneficiary designations.

 

New Bills & Explanation of Bill Impact on Economic Development within Ohio:

HB 418 is sponsored by State Representative John Barnes (D-Cleveland). This bill proposes to enact the “Senior Housing Relief Act”, which will prohibit the sale of delinquent property tax certificates for homesteads owned for at least 20 years by a person aged 65 or older. Currently, local governments can place a lien on a property that is delinquent in property tax payments. HB 418 would remove properties that fall under the Senior Housing Relief Act from the list of parcels that may be selected for a tax certificate sale. HB 418 seeks to address an increasingly serious issue many Ohioans within the elderly community face. This bill will provide a much-needed supportive service to communities and will have positive long-term effects as it will keep people in their homes thus preventing blight.

 

For more details and information on legislation that GOPC is tracking, please visit our Previous Legislative Updates.

GOPC Legislative Update December 2015

December 22nd, 2015

By Lindsey Gardiner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

The following grid is designed to provide you with insight into the likelihood of passage of the legislation we are monitoring. Please note that due to the fluid nature of the legislative process, the color coding of bills is subject to change at any time. GOPC will be regularly updating the legislative update the last Thursday of every month and when major developments arise. If you have any concerns about a particular bill, please let us know.

November Leg. Update Grid

Bills Available Online at www.legislature.ohio.gov

 

Updates on Key Bills: greater-ohio-flag

greater-ohio-flag HB 303 UPDATE: HB 303 was unanimously passed out of the House chamber earlier this month with 92 affirmative votes. The bipartisan legislative proposal, which will give lenders an additional tool to work with homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure, is expected to be referred to a Senate committee at the beginning of 2016.

greater-ohio-flag HB 340 UPDATE: HB 340 is among one of the more active pieces of legislation this month and in fact became known as the “Budget Corrections/Christmas Tree Bill”. The bill, which was originally only three pages long, soon grew to 167 pages before it was reported out of the Senate Finance Committee. On December 9th, the House and Senate chambers agreed to various budget corrections in addition to the initial intent to renew the Local Government Innovation Council (LGIC) until December 2019. GOPC commends the Legislature for coming together to extend the LGIC, which has provided loans and grants for local government innovation projects to hundreds of communities across the state.

 

For more details and information on legislation that GOPC is tracking, please visit our Previous Legislative Updates.

Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Jeopardized

June 15th, 2015

As you may know, the Ohio Senate has unveiled a proposal to put a 2-year freeze on Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit projects beginning this July. The Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit has been an important tool in revitalizing Ohio’s communities and strengthening our metro economies. We need to keep this going to create jobs and vibrant communities in which people want to live and work.

Why is the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits program good for Ohio?

1. Job Creation. Since the start of the Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit Program in 2007, more than 21,000 permanent jobs and more than 20,000 construction jobs have been created.

2. Economic Development. Every $1 of Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit will leverage at least $6.71 in investment. This proposed moratorium will kill major revitalization projects that are already in the pipeline and underway but not yet complete and it will put the entire program in jeopardy.

Please email your senator TODAY and tell him or her why this moratorium is a bad idea for your community and for Ohio and ask the committee to remove the proposal from the Senate Budget Bill. You can find your senator’s contact information here:   http://www.ohiosenate.gov/senate/members/senate-directory

 

Highlights from the 2015 Greater Ohio Summit

June 11th, 2015

Greater Ohio Policy Center would like to thank all the participants of Restoring Neighborhoods, Strengthening Economies for contributing to the Summit’s great success!

It was not missed that the Summit occurred while important discussions were taking place at the Statehouse about the future of financial tools for neighborhoods and cities throughout Ohio. Greater Ohio was able to testify while also hosting the Summit, and we will keep you updated on these ongoing legislative issues here on our blog.

We have included a recap of some of the highlights of the 2015 Summit below:

 

Coleman Calls for an Urban Agenda & Leading Mayors from Around State Discuss the Role of Cities in Ohio’s Future

Coleman-cropped

As reported by the Columbus Dispatch, Mayor Coleman of Columbus gave the following remarks at the Summit on June 9th:

“We need a state legislature that understands cities are economic engines, not economic drains,” Coleman said during his keynote speech at the Greater Ohio Policy Center’s summit on urban innovation and sustainable growth.

Coleman wants to see better public transit — both within cities and connecting Ohio’s urban areas. He wants the state help to create more-walkable neighborhoods and fight blight, and he wants the legislature to renew a state fund to clean up polluted industrial sites so they can be redeveloped.

“We’ve come to the point where we need a statewide urban agenda,” he said at the Westin Columbus hotel Downtown.

The Summit closed with a plenary panel of leading mayors from across the state: Mayor Nan Whaley of Dayton, Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson of Toledo, Mayor Randy Riley of Wilmington, and Mayor John McNally of Youngstown. Highlighting recent successes in their cities, the mayors struck an optimistic tone on the future of cities in Ohio and each noted the unique relationship their city had with its surrounding region and the state. Discussing challenges facing their cities—including the difficulty of blight and connecting workers to jobs and opportunity—the mayors cautioned that the state of Ohio could do more to support cities.

Greater Ohio Policy Center has been leading the charge for a statewide urban agenda in Ohio and will continue to do so through the current state budget season and in the future. We believe that an urban agenda would support the revitalization of neighborhoods and cities throughout the state, help connect workers to employment centers, create vibrant communities of choice, and strengthen Ohio’s economy.

 

2015 Award Winners

2015 0610 Greater Ohio Policy Center-Catalytic Partner - Tom Wilke City of Kent  Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala  Kelvin Berry Kent State Univ  GOSDA Chair Chr

We would like to congratulate the winners of the first ever Greater Ohio Sustainable Development Awards! The awards recognize those who are working to create vibrant and sustainable communities, cities, and regions in Ohio.

Public Sector Leader Award Winner:
This Award recognizes a public sector individual or entity exemplifying outstanding leadership and innovation in advancing policies or programs that incentivize and enable community reinvestment and sustainable development in Ohio’s cities and regions.

Senator Bill Beagle is in his second term in the Ohio Senate, representing all or part of Darke, Miami, Montgomery, and Preble Counties, and is a recognized advocate for workforce development, community and economic development.

Private Sector Champion Award Winner:
This Award recognizes a private sector individual or entity that has demonstrated a commitment to and excellence in investing in existing communities and strengthening local economies in Ohio. Their contributions foster a holistic approach to sustainable development, leading to environmental, social, and economic prosperity.

The Model Group is an integrated property development, construction, and management company working Cincinnati. Partnering with a variety of funding sources, local municipalities, and community stakeholders, Model Group builds and redevelops housing and mixed-used developments that revitalize and transform urban neighborhoods.

Nonprofit of the Year Award Winner:
This Award recognizes a nonprofit individual or entity in Ohio that works with communities to identify local needs and addresses them with efficiency and effectiveness. Open to 501-c3 designated nonprofits and philanthropic institutions, this Award honors those organizations that are innovating community solutions and meeting local needs and opportunities with distinction.

University Circle, Inc. is responsible for the growth of Cleveland’s University Circle neighborhood as a premier center of innovation in health care, education, arts, and culture.  Utilizing real estate development, business services, and advocacy, UCI has helped to create a vibrant urban district that is a national model.

The Catalytic Partnership Award Winner:
Communities are strengthened when sectors work together to meet common goals for sustainable development. This Award recognizes a cross-sector partnership that has had a measurable positive impact in a community or region in Ohio, and represents a model for creative and effective collaboration.

The City of Kent and Kent State University have brought together city, university, and business assets to catalyze economic revival in downtown Kent.  With the local Regional Transit Authority and private developers, the revitalization plan has attracted $130 million in investments.

 

Media Attention on the Summit

Illustrating the relevance of the speakers and topics covered, the Summit received a great deal of media attention! You can take a look at some of the articles about the Summit on our website here.

If you would like to see all the live tweets from the event, go to our Storify page here.

 

Presentations Now Available!

All the panel presentations are available for download via Dropbox here. Enjoy!

 

 

Legislative Update: Fast Track Foreclosure & Service Station Cleanup

May 21st, 2015

Ohio General Assembly Reviews Bill that will Fast Track Foreclosure on Problem Properties

House Bill 134, formerly known as HB 223 in the 130th General Assembly, has been re-introduced by bill cosponsors Representative Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City), and Representative Mike Curtin (D-Columbus).

Image by Forsaken Fotos

This bill will expedite the time it takes to foreclose on a vacant or abandoned residential property, leading to a faster turnaround for managing and mitigating blight in Ohio’s neighborhoods.  Specifically, HB 134 aims to:

  1. authorize a municipal corporation to file for foreclosure on vacant and abandoned residential properties,
  2. permits blighted properties on sale at a sheriff’s auction to be listed without a minimum bid on the second sales attempt, and
  3. permits a municipality to dispose of blighted properties at their convenience if such properties have not been disposed of through a sheriff’s auction.

As a result of the bill, additional foreclosure actions may be filed by municipal corporations with the appropriate court of common pleas or municipal court, and those properties in turn could be sold through a sheriff’s sale, or if unsold, disposed of in a manner deemed appropriate by the municipal corporation that filed the action.

Since the bill’s introduction in late March, the bill has been moving quickly with a third hearing in the House Financial Institutions, Housing, and Urban Development Committee on Wednesday, May 20th. With the rate the legislation is moving and no testimony in opposition to the bill, HB 134 remains in good standing and could be up for a possible vote out of committee by the end of this month.

GOPC has offered support to assist Representatives Grossman and Curtin, and is working collaboratively with the Ohio CDC Association and other Interested Party members, such as the Ohio Bankers League (OBL), and various other stakeholders of this legislation. Proponents of HB 134 include the Ohio Mortgage Bankers Association (OMBA), Safeguard Properties, Community Blight Solutions, SecureView companies, the City of Columbus, and the Buckeyes State Sheriffs’ Association.

HB 134 continues to receive widespread, bipartisan support and GOPC is optimistic the bill will pick up more momentum as more members of the Legislature learn of the positive impact it will have on Ohio’s communities.

 


 

GOPC Testifies to Ohio’s Senate Finance Workforce Subcommittee on the Service Station Cleanup Fund Program

Image by Matthew Rutledge

Government Affairs Manager Lindsey Gardiner recently offered interested party testimony to the Senate Finance Workforce Subcommittee on the Service Station Cleanup Fund Program contained within the Ohio Development Services Agency’s budget, which is part of the 2016-2017 Operating Budget (HB64).

Gardiner gave the following remarks (excerpt from testimony):

“We were pleased to see that the Operating Budget proposes the creation of a Service Station Cleanup Fund (Sec. 610.20). We have made three recommendations for consideration in the Budget.

  1. Expand the definition of property owner to include organizations that have entered into an agreement with a political subdivision, which will be better prepared to manage the challenges associated with these contaminated sites.
  2. Clarify the definition of cleanup or remediation to include the acquisition of a class C release site, demolition performed at a site, and the installation or upgrade of the minimum amount of infrastructure that is necessary to make a site operational after other clean up measures. Adding specifics to this definition will ensure properties are shovel-ready.
  3. Adjust the grant amounts for property assessment from $500,000 to $100,000 and cleanup from $2,000,000 to $500,000. Average assessment costs for small sites like a service station usually range from $20,000 to $120,000 and cleanup and remediation of these sites often can be accomplished with $100,000 to $600,000.”

GOPC is very pleased to see a commitment by the state of Ohio to assist communities in priming sites that will directly support local economic development efforts. Ohio has much economic redevelopment potential locked-up in contaminated sites and remediating these locations will help businesses thrive and create places where people want to live. We hope that the Service Station Cleanup Fund is the first of several programs that leverage the investments needed for these sites, which are located in so many of Ohio’s communities.