Ohio’s FY2018-19 Main Operating Budget Moves to Next Stage; GOPC Offers Recommendations

May 18th, 2017

By Jason Warner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

Recently, the Ohio House of Representatives approved a drastically different two-year state budget from the one proposed by Governor John Kasich in January. The House budget included roughly $632 million in reductions due to decreased state revenue collections, and so far for the fiscal year FY2016-17, receipts are $773.7 million, or 4.2 percent, below projections. This followed an announcement in April by state leaders that the budget would need to be revised downward by roughly $800 million for the next biennium (FY2018-19).

With passage of the House version, the budget now moves to the Ohio Senate, where additional reductions will be needed to meet the $800 million in cuts. The deadline to approve the budget is June 30, when the current state fiscal year (FY2017) ends. Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) continues to testify on several changes to be made in HB49, including the following provisions. 

GOPC-Supported Provisions:

- The budget bill provides $4.8 million in annual funding over the biennium for lead remediation and associated testing services for homes under lead hazard orders, ensuring that more properties are made safe for families. This will be done through the use of federal funding available to the state.  GOPC is pleased by the state’s commitment on this important issue and encourages the Legislature to ensure local lead abatement programs are empowered to utilize the funding.

GOPC-Opposed Provisions:

- A House amendment would mandate stickers be affixed to retail service station pumps displaying the rates of federal and state taxes applicable to gasoline and diesel fuel. The stickers would be produced and distributed by the Department of Agriculture at an unknown cost. All pumps would be required to have the stickers affixed within 14 months of the bills effective date and would need to be replaced if damaged or if the state or federal tax rates change. 

- The House reduced funding for public transportation by more than 11% per year for both FY2018 and 2019. This line item provides funding for the Public Transportation Grant Program and the Elderly and Disabled Fare Assistance Program. This line item has been reduced by more than 68% or $17,969,134, since FY2000. 

GOPC’s Proposed Amendments to the Bill:

- GOPC proposes an amendment to make it easier for cities to clean up contaminated brownfield sites.  The proposal would modify Ohio law to make it clear that urban renewal projects can recover the costs of environmental remediation. In an urban renewal project, a municipality and a developer create a development agreement to mitigate a blighted area.  After development begins, the property owner makes service payments in lieu of taxes, based on the increased valuation of the property.  Service payments support bonds that have been issued to support redevelopment costs.

- The federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services has issued a directive that Ohio cannot continue applying state and local sales taxes on the premiums of Medicaid Managed Care Organizations. HB49 provides for a new service fee to be charged to make-up for lost state revenue, while only providing partial, temporary financial relief to counties and transit agencies. GOPC supports the inclusion of a provision in HB49 that will extend greater financial relief to counties and transit agencies. 

For more complete coverage of the Main Operating Budget, please visit here.

Greater Ohio Policy Center Outlines Budget Priorities

May 2nd, 2017

By Jason Warner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

As Greater Ohio continues its advocacy efforts at the Ohio Statehouse, we have recently updated our policy platform as it relates to House Bill 49, the state main operating budget for Fiscal Years 2018-2019.

The full position paper is available here.

To learn more about House Bill 49, including status updates, you can read our April legislative update. 

Build in Akron: Opportunities for Residential Reinvestment in Akron’s Neighborhoods

February 16th, 2017

GOPC report details opportunities for market-rate residential investment in Akron’s neighborhoods

The Build in Akron report, produced with the support of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, finds that many of Akron’s neighborhoods can already support additional market-rate housing and many more could attract new development through strategic interventions that have been employed successfully in other cities in Ohio.

Go Here to read the Report

Build in Akron features a market analysis by DiSalvo Development Advisors that categorizes Akron’s neighborhoods by the kinds of interventions necessary to bolster the housing market. The analysis categorizes neighborhoods into four groups, which are displayed on an interactive map available here. The report found that all neighborhood types have opportunities for regrowth but are at different stages in the market-building process.

Based on interviews with local homebuilders and research about strategies used successfully in similar cities in Ohio, the report also outlines a series of interventions the City of Akron and other stakeholders can use to create the conditions for additional development. These strategies are customized for and targeted to the four neighborhood types and are illustrated with examples of other cities in Ohio that have used them successfully. The strategies are:

  • Concentrate on rebuilding the downtown rental market. A strong downtown rental market not only draws new residents who are looking for urban living options, but creates a pipeline of potential buyers throughout Akron’s neighborhoods.
  • Create additional mixed-use districts to broaden the appeal of urban living. Newer mixed-use developments in Akron have shown that there is pent-up demand for market-rate housing in a dense, urban environment. Mixed-use districts can encourage additional developers to follow suit in investing in a neighborhood.
  • Creatively address the challenges of lower appraised values. As also reported in the City of Akron’s Planning to Grow Akron report, low home values discourage market-rate developers from building in the city. Other cities in Ohio, particularly Youngstown and Cleveland, have found creative ways to strategically address this challenge.
  • Strategically deploy incentives like tax abatements. All similarly-sized cities in Ohio make residential tax abatements available, at least in certain neighborhoods. Research shows that this tool could help boost additional investment in Akron as well, but is unlikely to rebuild market strength without complementary strategies.
  • Find mutual interest with hospitals and health systems in neighborhoods. Hospitals and health systems in Ohio and beyond have a growing interest in promoting strong, healthy neighborhoods through investments in housing and community development.
  • Encourage market-rate and affordable development by community development corporations (CDCs). CDCs have proven to be important, on-the-ground partners for market-rate developers in other Ohio cities. Building the capacity of existing CDCs and supporting the growth of new ones could create opportunities for catalytic investment.
  • Leverage the real-estate development abilities of public or quasi-public agencies. Land banks and port authorities have legal tools and access to funding sources that make them valuable potential partners for residential investment.

Cincinnati Enquirer Publishes GOPC Op-Ed on Recommendations for 21st Century Infrastructure Policies

January 26th, 2017

The Cincinnati Enquirer recently published GOPC Senior Policy Fellow Jon Honeck’s guest column “Here’s how to, and how not to, rebuild America.” In the op-ed, GOPC makes practical recommendations to guide policymakers as they tackle the challenges of keeping the country moving in the 21st Century. 

For the first time in years, the nation’s infrastructure crisis will be a leading issue in Congress. To build on this momentum at the state level, GOPC is advocating for improvements in public transit in the upcoming Ohio Department of Transportation budget. The op-ed recommends that policymakers in Ohio and in Washington should adopt a “fix it first” policy that focuses on maintaining and utilizing existing infrastructure. With this solid foundation in place, we can think creatively about how to finance catalytic projects that think out of the box.

Go here to read the op-ed.

For more information on strategies and policies needed to rebuild Ohio, please see GOPC’s Water Infrastructure and Transportation Modernization Resources for the latest news and tools in these fields, including a report on water infrastructure released last week: Strengthening Ohio’s Water Infrastructure: Financing and Policy.

To learn more about policies and strategies for modernizing Ohio’s water and sewer infrastructure and transportation systems, make sure to attend our 2017 Summit: Investing in Ohio’s Future March 7th and 8th! We hope you join us: Register today!

Former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy to Keynote GOPC 2017 Summit

January 19th, 2017

The Greater Policy Center (GOPC) is thrilled to announce that our 2017 Summit Keynote Speaker is Tom Murphy, Urban Land Institute Canizaro/Klingbeil Families Chair for Urban Development. Murphy served as Mayor of Pittsburgh from 1994 to 2005, and became a senior resident fellow at the Urban Land Institute in 2006.

While mayor of Pittsburgh, Murphy initiated a public-private partnership strategy that leveraged more than $4.5 billion in economic development in the city. He developed strategic partnerships to transform more than 1,000 acres of blighted, abandoned industrial properties into new commercial, residential, retail, and public uses, and oversaw the development of more than 25 miles of new riverfront trails and parks. Murphy also served eight terms in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and is the author of a number of reports that document how communities can leverage limited public resources for dramatic change.

Drawing on his extensive experience in urban revitalization, Murphy will discuss strategies and policies that successfully drive investment and long-lasting impact in weak-market cities of all sizes.

Learn More about Keynote Speaker Tom Murphy on our Bio Page

Tom Murphy Keynote headshot - permission to use
Former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy. Photo credit: Urban Land Institute 

Register today for GOPC’s 2017 Summit, Investing in Ohio’s Future: Maximizing Growth in our Cities and Regions to attend Murphy’s keynote address and learn from experts, policymakers, and local leaders as they present cutting-edge strategies, new tools, and policy solutions that lay the foundation for building prosperous cities, suburbs, exurbs, and regions in Ohio.The Summit will take place March 7th and 8th, 2017 at the Westin Hotel in downtown Columbus.We look forward to seeing you there!

Montage summit copy
Photos Courtesy of (from left): Don Angle Photography, Akron Stock Photos, GOPC (x3), Don Angle Photography

GOPC Updates Analysis on Challenges Facing Ohio’s Smaller Legacy Cities; Presents Findings at CMC

January 17th, 2017

Greater Ohio Policy Center has released an update to its 2016 report From Akron to Zanesville: How Are Ohio’s Small and Mid-Sized Legacy Cities Faring? The report examined the economic health of Ohio’s older industrial cities over the last 15 years and recommends proactive state policy solutions to strengthen these places. Newly released 2015 data confirms the general downward trajectory of many key economic indicators in these communities.

  • Ohio’s mid-sized legacy cities – Akron, Canton, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown – resemble their larger neighbors in many ways, including their challenges with entrenched poverty, low household incomes, and substantial rates of housing vacancy and abandonment. But the signs of recovery continuing to emerge in Cleveland and Cincinnati are not apparent in the economic health data of the mid-sized cities.
  • The proportion of adults working or looking for a job – a key indicator of economic health – declined significantly between 2000 and 2015 in small and mid-sized legacy cities.
  • Unemployment rates ticked down in all city types between 2014 and 2015. By 2015, Columbus and the state as a whole recovered their unemployment rates to 2009 levels. Mid-sized legacy cities also approached their unemployment levels at the end of the Recession. However, unemployment levels in all city types and the state as a whole continue to exceed 2000 levels.

GOPC’s research has confirmed that cities that are rebounding invest in place-based assets to revitalize.  To help Ohio’s smaller legacy cities stabilize and thrive, in 2017, GOPC will continue to lead advocacy on a slate of policies that support community redevelopment as routes to economic stability.

As part of GOPC’s recently launched smaller legacy city initiative, Executive Director, Alison D. Goebel, discussed the 2015 findings and GOPC’s policy recommendations at a Columbus Metropolitan Club forum, Big City Problems in Ohio’s Small Towns, which over 140 people attended earlier this week. During the panel, Goebel discussed ongoing challenges, such as economic and population decline, that Ohio’s smaller legacy cities face. To enable these cities to rebound, Goebel emphasized the importance of local civic capacity and the need to invest in both people and place-based assets.

GOPC was joined by Tara Britton, director of public policy and advocacy at the Center for Community Solutions and John Begala, retired executive director of the Center for Community Solutions, and the session was moderated by Karen Kasler of the Ohio Public Radio Statehouse News Bureau. If you missed the CMC forum, a Video of the whole event has been made available on CMC’s YouTube channel, which can be viewed online for free!

AG CMC cropped

GOPC’s Executive Director Alison Goebel (right) speaking at the Columbus Metropolitan Club about recent data on smaller legacy cities and strategies for regrowth.

We will be hosting a smaller legacy cities panel along with a whole array of exciting topics during our 2017 Summit: Investing in Ohio’s Future March 7th and 8th! We hope you join us; Register today!

 

Press Release: GOPC Updates Report on Challenges Facing Ohio’s Small and Mid-Sized Cities

January 10th, 2017

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 10, 2017

Contact: Michael McGovern, 937-245-1232, michael.d.mcgovern@gmail.com

 

Greater Ohio Policy Center Updates Report on Challenges Facing Ohio’s Small and Mid-sized Cities

Newly released 2015 data largely continues downward trends found in original report

Columbus, OH - Today, Greater Ohio Policy Center released an update to its report “From Akron to Zanesville: How Are Ohio’s Small and Mid-Sized Legacy Cities Faring?” The report examined the economic health of Ohio’s older industrial cities over the last 15 years and recommends proactive state policy solutions to strengthen these places. Newly released 2015 data confirms the general downward trajectory of many key economic indicators in these communities.

The update to the report is online here.

“Unfortunately, this new data generally shows many of the same downward trends in these communities as they continue to diverge from larger cities,” said GOPC Executive Director Alison Goebel. “Stronger trends in large cities like Columbus mask declines in many other parts of the state.”

“Ohio’s long-term economic health will require these issues be addressed. Recovery in these communities will depend on both creative local leadership and statewide policy change,” Goebel continued. 

The 20 small and mid-sized cities covered in this report all have populations of at least 20,000 people and are situated in larger metropolitan areas of less than one million people. Nearly one-third of Ohioans live in small or mid-sized cities or their surrounding regions and combined, just eight of these cities accounted for nearly 30 percent of the state’s GDP in 2014.

Updates to the report with the addition of the 2015 data include: 

  • The mid-sized legacy cities – Akron, Canton, Dayton, Toledo, and Youngstown – resemble their larger neighbors in many ways, including their challenges with entrenched poverty, low household  incomes, and substantial rates of housing vacancy and abandonment. But the signs of recovery continuing to emerge in Cleveland and Cincinnati are not apparent in the economic health data of the mid-sized cities. 
  • The proportion of adults working or looking for a job – a key indicator of economic health – declined significantly between 2000 and 2015 in small and mid-sized legacy cities.
  • Unemployment rates ticked down in all city types between 2014 and 2015. By 2015, Columbus and the state as a whole recovered their unemployment rates to 2009 levels. Mid-sized legacy cities also approached their unemployment levels at the end of the Recession. However, unemployment levels in all city types and the state as a whole continue to exceed 2000 levels. 

The original report is online here.

The Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) is a non-profit, non-partisan organization with a mission to champion revitalization and sustainable growth in Ohio.  GOPC uses education, research and outreach to develop and advance policies and practices that create revitalized communities, strengthen regional cooperation, and preserve Ohio’s open space and farmland.

To speak with one of GOPC’s policy experts about the report and city-specific data, please contact Michael McGovern at michael.d.mcgovern@gmail.com

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GOPC’s Open Letter to Ohio EPA Regarding VW Mitigation Funds for Public Transportation

December 13th, 2016

GOPC encourages you to submit formal comments to the Ohio EPA urging them to use Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund dollars for public transportation. Below is a copy of the letter that GOPC submitted on December 13, 2016. You may use this letter as a template for your comments to the Ohio EPA. 

Send your comments to derg@epa.ohio.gov. Comments will be accepted until December 31, 2016.

 

December 13, 2016

Ohio Environmental Protection Agency
Attn.: Office of Environmental Education, Diesel Emissions Reduction Grants Program Manager
P.O. Box 1049
Columbus, OH 43216-1049

Subject: Usage of Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Funds for Transit Repower and Replacement

Dear Office of Environmental Education:

My name is Alison Goebel and I am the Executive Director of the Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC), a nonpartisan, nonprofit with a mission to champion revitalization and sustainable growth in Ohio. Thank you for accepting formal comments on the state mitigation plan for the Mitigation Trust Fund associated with the Volkswagen Consent Decree.

I am writing to urge the Ohio EPA to use 50% of the Volkswagen settlement funds to repower and replace diesel vehicles in Ohio’s public transportation fleet.

Public transportation in Ohio has been severely underfunded for years. Currently the state allocates approximately $0.63 per Ohioan to transit, while Ohio’s peers, such as Pennsylvania and Michigan, invest over $24.00 per capita. As a result of deferred support, over one-third of Ohio’s 3,200 transit vehicles are still on the road despite being beyond their useful life and in need of replacement.

The state mitigation plan for the VW Environmental Mitigation Trust Fund represents an enormous opportunity.

Half of Ohio’s allotment ($35.7 million) of the Mitigation Trust Fund could:

  • replace more than 125 diesel-powered city buses, or
  • repower more than 700 buses with alternative fuel engines

Using the settlement funds for transit vehicles is the highest and best use of the Mitigation Trust Fund dollars.

The eight largest public transportation systems serving Ohio EPA’s possible priority counties provided more than 105 million rides in 2015. If transit ridership rates remain the same over the ten year life of the Mitigation Trust Fund, Ohio will potentially avoid more than 1.05 billion automobile rides.

Eliminating emissions from outdated diesel transit engines and substantially contributing to the reduction of individual automobile emissions will have extraordinary and compounding benefits for Ohio’s air quality.

GOPC has a number of resources on the multiple benefits of providing Ohio with more transportation options, especially transit. Those materials can be found on our Transportation Modernization webpage. We encourage you to see us as a resource as Ohio EPA writes its state mitigation plan.

Again, we urge the Ohio EPA to use the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Fund to repower or replace a portion of Ohio’s diesel bus fleet. Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

Alison D. Goebel, PhD

Executive Director

 

GOPC Staff Speaks at MORPC Summit on Sustainability and the Environment

October 25th, 2016

By Jon Honeck, Ph.D., GOPC Senior Policy Fellow

Overview

On Friday, October 21, I had the privilege of being a panelist at the MORPC Summit on Sustainability and the Environment, held at the Columbus Hilton Downtown.  The panel’s title was “Looking Ahead, What Are the Important Sustainability Policy Issues?”  The other panelists included Kent Scarrett of the Ohio Municipal League, Jack Shaner of the Ohio Environmental Council, and Holly Nagle of the Columbus Chamber.  Panelists were asked to speak about upcoming issues in the lame duck state legislative session and the 2017 state budget process.  In the short run, panelists agreed that Ohio’s renewable portfolio energy standards are likely to be a top priority of the General Assembly when it returns after the 2016 election.  For the 2017 budget process, I focused my presentation on transportation, water and sewer infrastructure, brownfield remediation, and application of public nuisance statutes to commercial and industrial property. 

Transportation

GOPC is trying to improve state funding for public transit and advocate that the state make progress in an “active transportation” strategy that makes roadways safe for all users, including bicyclists and pedestrians.   The Ohio Department of Transportation budget is considered separately from the state main operating budget bill.  The budget scenario for public transit funding is difficult.   Currently the state only provides about 3 percent of overall public transit funding, with local and federal funds providing the largest shares.  On a per capita basis, Ohio ranks 38th highest in the nation in its support for public transit.  GOPC has proposed some ways to provide dedicated funding from the state, but progress is complicated by the need to replace Ohio’s Medicaid managed care sales tax.  Seven local transit authorities rely on a local sales tax and collectively they received $33.6 million from the sales tax on Medicaid premiums. If this funding goes away without a replacement, significant service cuts will result.

Water and Sewer

Many cities across the state are facing a dual challenge of upgrading aging infrastructure and complying with EPA regulations to fix combined sewer overflows that lead to raw sewage being discharged into waterways during major storms.   Over the next 20 years, the EPA estimates that Ohio utilities will need $14.1 billion for wastewater treatment upgrades and $12.1 billion for drinking water infrastructure.  GOPC’s analysis of the problems facing Ohio legacy cities and the need for additional funding can be found here.  These estimates do not include any potential costs of lead service line replacement that may be needed in the wake of public reaction to the situation in Flint, MI.  Under Ohio House Bill 512, Ohio utilities must complete a map of all lead service water supply lines by March, 2017, a date that is in the midst of the state budget process.  The availability of this information may influence public opinion.   

With the Kasich Administration proposing its final budget, sustainability issues will have to hold their own against education, taxation, criminal justice, and other high profile issues.  GOPC will ensure that advocates are informed and can make the case for sustainability during the budget process.  For more information, please sign up for our email updates. 

 

Don’t Miss GOPC’s Upcoming Webinar on Ohio’s Small and Mid-Sized Legacy Cities

October 12th, 2016

In conjunction with the Ohio CDC Association, GOPC will co-host a Webinar on October 27th, 2016 from 10:00-11:30am that will examine how smaller legacy cities, from Akron to Zanesville, have fared over the last 15 years. GOPC will share best practices that smaller legacy cities throughout the Midwest and Northeast used to jumpstart revitalization and that community development practitioners can catalyze and implement.

GOPC recently presented on its latest work on small and mid-sized legacy cities at the Reclaiming Vacant Properties Conference in Baltimore. To learn more about this, please check out our October 2016 Newsletter.

 

We hope you join us for the Webinar on October 27th – click here to sign up!

 

Ohio CDC