December 27th, 2012
By Lavea Brachman, Executive Director, Greater Ohio Policy Center
With the aftermath of the election barely behind us and the so-called “fiscal cliff” looming, political polarization seems unabated. But beneath the surface and beyond the drama of the national election in “battleground Ohio,” Ohio is less divided in ways that matter to economic progress. As a bipartisan state policy organization, we are privileged to observe the similarities of governing and good policies among policymakers of both parties.
First, the urban-rural divide characterizing Ohio for decades has quietly and gradually begun to fade away. Seven major regions in the state exist now, centered around cities. Rural places are increasingly economically dependent on the urban areas and their satellites. But benefits extend in both directions- for example, urban Columbus-ites enjoy the proximity of the Hocking Hills while those in the Appalachian region benefit from health care and spin off jobs from the city.
Second, for over a decade, policymakers have been turning these regions into the building blocks of the new economy. Democratic and Republican governors alike embraced the concepts found in a seminal report completed in the mid-2000’s during the Taft Administration, identifying key economic regions in the state and critical industries. A regional economic development approach was initiated under Governor Strickland with now Governor Kasich working on economic redevelopment through on-the-ground regional organizations. While implementation scenarios vary, regional economic growth efforts – corresponding loosely to metropolitan regions — are starting to take hold.
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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.
September 4th, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more information, contact:
Alison Goebel, Associate Director
September 3, 2012-COLUMBUS, Ohio – Three Ohio-based think tanks representing various public policy perspectives today are renewing a call they made last year to thoroughly re-examine Ohio’s myriad of tax expenditures, commonly known as “loopholes.”
The Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, The Center for Community Solutions and The Greater Ohio Policy Center issued the following statement,
“Governor Kasich’s recent comments on the need to examine these expenditures bring back into public view the importance of Ohio’s adopting a comprehensive process for evaluating and, where appropriate, changing or terminating them. We agree with the Governor that the time to be proactive on this issue is now, and urge leaders in the General Assembly to adopt legislation before the next budget cycle.
“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. Our joint proposal from last year entailed terminating a group of these tax expenditures as part of the biennial budget legislation. We maintain this should be revisited by the General Assembly during its post-election session.”
The groups concluded that,
“We stand ready to assist the Kasich Administration and the General Assembly as they tackle this issue. However we may differ on the size and scope of government, all Ohioans would benefit from a system for monitoring taxes and expenditures that is as rigorous as the biennial budget process for programmatic expenditures. Support for this idea exists across the political spectrum. The time for action is at hand.”
To view the statement in its entirety please click here.
December 23rd, 2011
By Gene Krebs
While Ohio’s tax obligation as a percentage of income is ranked 33rd highest of the 50 states, we are ranked a stunning 6th highest for local tax obligation. This could be blamed on many things by many people, but there is another fact that also stands out. Nationally, there are 27.9 local governments per county. Ohio has 41.3 local governments per county. This is driven not just by cost, but also a fractured governmental structure, leading to a cacophony of voices raised in economic development efforts.
It is not that we have too little economic development in Ohio; we have too much economic development bureaucracy. Not only does this lead to churning and poaching of one business from a community to one just down the road (leading to no or little economic benefit to the community as a whole), the myriad rules and local regulations inhibit businesses from locating in those small box counties.
One of the solutions to this lack of coordinated economic development is something that Greater Ohio has been pushing for several years- a fund to encourage collaboration, sharing services and consolidation of back office operations.
The Local Government Innovation Fund (LGIF) was created in the last budget to foster that change. Many of our earlier language suggestions were adopted directly by the General Assembly, and for that we are grateful. The LGIF was established to provide financial assistance to Ohio political subdivisions for planning and implementing projects that are designed to create more efficient and effective service delivery within a specific discipline of government services for one or more entities. Projects are also expected to facilitate improved business environments and promote community attraction.
The LGIF program will award up to $100,000 in grant funds per feasibility study, up to $100,000 in loan assistance per entity for demonstration projects, and up to $500,000 in loan assistance for multi-entity projects to be used for demonstration projects.
There are five scheduled five LGIF information sessions to explain the upcoming Innovation Grant & Loan Application and Program. Please click here for additional information about the program and regional informational sessions; click here for more information on the application.
The LGIF is managed by the Local Government Innovation Council; Governor Kasich graciously appointed me to serve on the council in the position as an advocate for the citizens of Ohio (I serve without pay, in case you were wondering). I am looking forward to working with the rest of the council and the able staff of the Ohio Department of Development.
August 31st, 2011
Today The Columbus Dispatch ran Greater Ohio’s Letter to the Editor, which congratulated Central Ohioans on the governance reforms underway in the region and discussed the goals of our new Regional Governance Initiative. As we note in the Letter, governance reform can help a region realize its shared identity. We believe this recognition encourages regions to grow smartly as the individual cost of new infrastructure or government is assessed in light of the cost or benefit to the entire region, not just the individual community.
You can find the full text of the article here. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment on our blog or Facebook page. And be sure to keep an eye on our blog as the Regional Governance Initiative gets underway this fall.
August 26th, 2011
By Lavea Brachman
An editorial in The Columbus Dispatch last week highlighted cost-saving initiatives underway in Franklin County, which we applaud as exciting initial steps toward greater operating efficiencies. Collaborative efforts, such as combining paper supply orders, foregoing separate postage meters, and setting up a multi-agency county employee health insurance pool, serve as important governance reform models for other local governments to follow throughout the state. Ultimately, we hope to see other local governments following Franklin County’s lead.
However, we believe that these measures set the stage for more dramatic reforms involving greater governmental integration down the road – such as regional governance, which might include city-county mergers or other joint governing, and regional revenue-sharing. We hope promotion of such reforms will be a priority for the Governor, his administration and the General Assembly. As Ohio continues to face severe budget cuts, incremental cost-saving measures such as those taken by Franklin County leaders, while necessary are not sufficient. True governance reform of this type allows counties to get ahead of future budget cuts and leverage the state’s rich multiplicity of urban and metropolitan regions, thus transforming Ohio into a 21st century economy. With seven of the nation’s top 100 major metros – and metro regions being critical economic drivers — Ohio can reap the benefits of being a “metro” state with the necessary policy tools to act regionally and promote vital land use and infrastructure redevelopment. Greater Ohio is launching a “regional governance initiative” to press these policies forward, in partnership with local and regional leaders. Over the next several months, the Regional Governance Initiative will utilize research, outreach, legislative advocacy and education, to undertake an unprecedented statewide effort to promote and institutionalize regionalism, regional economic development and related new governance structures in Ohio.
June 21st, 2011
Earlier this month Greater Ohio went to Montgomery County to participate in a day-long program: Developing the Miami Valley Region Together. Sitting on the “The Current and Future State of Regionalism” panel, Greater Ohio discussed the recent history of Ohio’s governance and taxation structures and how these systems have given rise to fragmented and—at times—duplicative, costly governments. As we pointed out in the discussion, excessive government layers often encourage urban sprawl, by seemingly making the edges of the metro cheaper. Looking at a region—like the Dayton metro—as a whole, however, shows that sprawling infrastructure and governments weaken the overall economic power of the core and its suburbs. Regional approaches, such as sharing service responsibilities between jurisdictions (such as using one parks and rec supervisor for two villages instead of each hiring their own), or even consolidations (as might happen among the city, county, and township fire departments) can reduce costs, maintain the same level of service, and encourage jurisdictions to more thoughtfully consider the addition of any new government layer on the edge of the region.
Greater Ohio was pleased to be invited to this public forum, as all of the day’s discussions sought to explain the different ways government cooperation can work, and what the benefits and disadvantages are to moving to more regionalistic structures. As we recommended in our April Budget Analysis, budget cuts at the state and local levels must be accompanied by legislation and administrative policies that help smooth the belt-tightening transition by enabling and making permissive regional solutions. The discussion underway in Montgomery County signals to us that local leaders have a real desire for governance reforms that will help them build strong metros in the future.
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:
The Columbus Dispatch – Editorial
The Akron Beacon Journal – Editorial
Dayton Daily News – Editorial
The Columbus Dispatch
The Cincinnati Enquirer
Dayton Daily News
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.
May 18th, 2011
By Gene Krebs.
Senate Bill 125 would allow all local governments to share services through a Council of Government. This is a good idea, but should be viewed as only a start to deal with our larger problems. Sharing services requires willpower at the local level, which is like my diet; it works until I see chocolate cake. I am testifying in support of SB 125 today.
We no longer live where we shop, live where we work, or work where we shop, but our whole system of governance and taxation is predicated on you conducting all your economic activity within five miles of where you live. Our local governments expect you to conduct a mixed balance of your activities within their governmental entity. However, this is no longer the reality in which we live; we live in a regional economy and our governance structures need to adjust to this change.
Ohio ranks 33rd highest in state tax obligation and 6th highest in local tax obligation. SB 125 could result in lower local taxes. Furthermore, Ohio has 41.3 local governments per county, and the national average is only 27.9. Becoming average would be an improvement. Our excessive amount of local governments drives up our cost of doing business. Sharing services would reduce these costs.
The only silos Ohio should have are located on our farms, yet unfortunately every governmental entity has their own funding silo, often from a different economic activity, and often with a local ballot funding mechanism. This leads to ballot exhaustion for the citizens and a fracturing of tax transparency and accountability. This separation of economic activity from our domicile is why school funding does not work in much of Ohio, for example.
For more information on this topic, please see our Sales Tax Analysis. I urge you to examine it closely.