The U.S. Supreme Court is heading into its second day of hearings on same-sex marriage today. Yesterday, the Supreme Court held hearings for Proposition 8, a ballot initiative in California that overturned the legalization of gay marriage. Today, the court will hold hearings on the Defense of Marriage Act, the law that banned same-sex marriage at a federal level. The Washington Post posted more in-depth information about the legal arguments here.
Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate fell sharply in February, from 8.6 percent in January to 7.5 percent. Unemployment in Hamilton County also fell from from 7.9 percent in January to 7.1 percent in February, and Greater Cincinnati’s rate fell from 8 percent to 7.4 percent. The dropping unemployment rates were matched with more people employed and less people unemployed.Ohio’s budget director says he thinks the state’s across-the-board income tax cuts will remain in the 2014-2015 budget, even as lawmakers take out other proposals put forward by Gov. John Kasich. The plan originally suggested by Kasich was widely criticized for disproportionately benefiting the wealthy, which CityBeat covered in further detail here.
Cincinnati is moving toward semi-automated trash collection, which the city has outlined in full detail here. This spring and summer, approximately 90,000 households will receive a 65-gallon trash cart that will be assigned to each address. As part of the broader policy, the lids on the trash carts will have to be fully closed to be collected, and residents will have to call the city to request a pickup for bulky items. The city says semi-automation will save money, improve worker safety, free employees for other services, increase recycling and help keep neighborhoods cleaner and pests out.
In response to USquare development workers not being paid prevailing wage, council members Laure Quinlivan, Cecil Thomas and Wendell Young are planning to pass a legislation that will require any construction project using at least 30 percent in city funds to pay all its workers prevailing wage. “These men were being pressured to sign documents stating they were paid prevailing wage when it was closer to minimum wage,” Quinlivan said in a statement. “These workers lost their jobs when they blew the whistle, and on their behalf, we intend to end worker exploitation on projects with significant city investment.”
UC Health, the University of Cincinnati’s medical wing, says it wants to run ambulances in northern Kentucky. It recently submitted applications for permission through Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services, which requires providers prove the need for some facilities and services before they can be opened.
Mercy Health will open a downtown clinic on April 1.
The prosecutor has dismissed charges against Punxsutawney Phil, the famous Pennsylvania groundhog who predicted an early spring.
Here is a shark with two heads.
Even as it faces budget cuts, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office says it wants more staff to keep up with higher jail populations — especially in light of a new measure that will keep more people detained until they appear in court. The measure is in response to some people never showing up to court after being released from jail. Staff are crediting the feasibility of the measure to Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Neil encouraging them to think “outside the box.” Still, Hamilton County Board of Commissioners President Chris Monzel says the cost of the program might require Neil to think “inside the box.”
The Ohio Tax Credit Authority is giving tax breaks to 13 businesses around the state in hopes of creating 1,417 jobs and spurring $83 million in investment. Seven of the projects are in the Hamilton, Butler and Clinton counties, with one in Cincinnati.
The Ohio House easily passed a bill that would effectively shut down Internet sweepstakes cafes, but the Ohio Senate is including the measure in a more comprehensive gambling bill. Senate President Keith Faber says there are a lot of issues related to gambling in Ohio, and the cafes are just one part of the problem.Ohio Sen. Rob Portman is one of many being targeted by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s pro-gun control ad campaign. Bloomberg is a leader in supporting more restrictive gun measures, and he’s planning on airing the ads in 13 states during the ongoing congressional spring break to push for stricter background checks and other new rules.
Ohio failed to show improvement in the latest infrastructure report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE). In both 2009 and 2013, Ohio got a C- for its infrastructure, which translates to 2,462 structurally deficient bridges and puts about 42 percent of roadways as “poor” or “mediocre” quality. But the report might not be as bad as it sounds. The Washington Post’s Brad Plumer argues that the ASCE is notoriously too harsh.
Duke Energy rolled out a new logo yesterday.
A former Miami University student is facing charges for allegedly changing his grades.
More options aren’t always a good thing, according to some science. A new study found more choices can lead to bad, risky decisions.
Ohio’s unemployment rate remained at 7 percent in February, unchanged from January but down from 7.5 percent in February 2012. The stagnant rate comes despite a generally positive national unemployment report in February — a sign that Ohio may be falling behind national growth rates. Both the amount of employed and unemployed grew, but growth in employment wasn’t enough to completely outweigh rises in unemployment. The job losses were mainly in construction, state government, trade, transportation and utilities, while professional and business services, educational and health services and financial activities had particularly strong growth.
A state transportation budget that will raise rural speed limits to 70 mph and leverage the Ohio Turnpike for statewide transportation projects cleared the legislature. The bill received bipartisan support and opposition as it moved through the Ohio House and Senate. Supporters say the bill will create jobs and address the state’s infrastructure needs without raising taxes, but opponents are worried potential toll hikes at the Ohio Turnpike will hurt northern Ohio to subsidize projects for the rest of the state.
Earlier in the day, Gov. John Kasich seemed to support same-sex civil unions, but his spokesperson walked back the comments to clarify the governor is still against changing the Ohio Constitution to support same-sex marriage and civil unions. The initial comments from Kasich sparked a response from Ian James, co-founder of FreedomOhio, which is pushing an amendment that would legalize same-sex marriage in Ohio for 2013: “I hope Gov. Kasich understands civil unions are banned by the Ohio Constitution as well and they are a cruel substitute for legal marriage.” The Republican Party is currently undergoing some soul-searching on the gay marriage issue, with a Republican National Committee report recently pointing out a generational divide on the issue and Sen. Rob Portman coming out in favor of marriage equality last week.
Tea party leaders are threatening the Republican Party for recent moves supporting LGBT rights, including Portman’s acceptance of same-sex marriage. The group also opposes the expected appointment of Matt Borges to chairman of the Ohio Republican Party because of a 2004 misdemeanor ethics conviction that was later expunged and Borges’ work as a lobbyist for Equality Ohio, an LGBT group.
Cincinnati’s year-over-year home sales were up in February, but growth wasn’t as quick as January. There were 1,662 homes sold in February, up 11.9 percent from February 2012 and more than the 1,600 homes sold in January. But January year-over-year sales were up 27 percent from 2012.
Kasich’s sales tax plan, which was criticized for raising taxes across the board, may be dead, but Ohio legislators are still planning to carry out changes to the income tax with the 2014-2015 budget. In the past week, Policy Matters Ohio has pushed for the earned income tax credit, which CityBeat found could be a progressive alternative to an across-the-board cut to the income tax. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal in further detail here.
The Ohio Development Services Agency says state tourism reaped $15 for every $1 put into marketing. In 2009 and 2010, the returns were $13. In 2011, the return was $14.
Butler County Prosecuting Attorney Michael Gmoser indicted Punxsutawney Phil, a famous groundhog, for the ongoing bout of cold weather. The groundhog predicted an early spring.
The universe’s estimated age has been bumped up to 13.8 billion years.
During Gov. John Kasich’s term as governor, local government funding has fallen by nearly half — from nearly $3 billion to about $1.6 billion — and Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is leading an effort to get that funding back. With the support of Democratic officials from around the state, Sittenfeld is launching a website called ProtectMyOhio.com, which is gathering petition signatures that will eventually be sent to Kasich and members of the Ohio General Assembly.
Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler extended the temporary restraining order on the city’s parking plan yesterday, potentially delaying any ruling on the city's plan to lease its parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority for another two weeks. In response, the city said it’s approaching a “pressure point” for budget cuts for fiscal year 2014, which must be executed by July 1.
Ohio House Republicans are looking to bolster education funding to poor districts in response to criticisms of Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget proposal. A previous CityBeat analysis found Kasich’s budget proposal disproportionately benefits the wealthy in a few ways, including education funding.
City Council did not vote on funding for a feasibility study for Westwood Square Wednesday, but the vote could happen as early as next week. The delay came after the Westwood Civic Association said in a letter that the plan needs more discussion.
The controversial election bill moved through the Ohio House yesterday despite calls for more time for debate. The bill, which will now head to Kasich to be signed into law, limits the referendum process by giving referendum and ballot initiative petitioners 10 days to get more signatures if the initial batch is found to be inadequate. Under current law, petitioners can continually search for more signatures while the secretary of state and ballot board sort through signatures. Republicans argue the change makes the petition process fair and uniform, but Democrats say it goes too far in weakening ballot initiative and referendum powers.
The state’s $7.6 billion transportation budget, which includes plan to fund transportation projects around the state with Ohio Turnpike funds, breezed through the Ohio Senate Wednesday. It will reach the House for a scheduled vote today.
Attorney General Mike DeWine announced new efforts to help sexual assault victims around Ohio by ensuring each county has adequate services. The efforts are in response to a survey that found 59 percent of counties don’t have comprehensive services and eight counties have very few or no services. “It is our goal to ensure that a quick and compassionate emergency response is available to any victim of sexual assault at any time of the day, any day of the week and in any area of the state,” DeWine said in a statement.
The federal government released data that shows serious safety violations in hospitals that occurred since Jan. 1, 2011, and the University of Cincinnati Medical Center and Christ Hospital are both on the list.
Hamilton County ranked No. 65 out of Ohio’s 88 counties for health in a new survey from Patrick Remington at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine. The study found suburban counties fare much better than urban counties, and premature death is at a 20-year low.
Accusations of inappropriate teacher behavior in Ohio are on the rise.
Voyager 1 is or may soon become the first object humanity has ever sent out of the sun’s reach.
Hamilton County Judge Robert Winkler announced today that he will be extending the restraining order on the city's parking plan until April 3, potentially delaying any ruling on the city's plan to lease its parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority for another two weeks.
Winkler's office told CityBeat that the judge has been focusing on a murder case, and the delay will give him more time to review the details of the parking plan's case before giving a ruling. The delay does not necessarily mean a ruling is delayed until April 3, and it's possible Winkler could rule within the next two weeks, according to his office.
Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, says the city is approaching a "pressure point" with the latest delay.
"We respect the court's right to do that (the extension), and know that every day that we cannot make the parking deal happen is a day that we are closer to having to lay people off," she says.
Olberding says the city is so far unsure what the exact effect of the delay will be. The city has repeatedly warned that extending the legal conflict for too long will force the city to make cuts to balance the budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins July 1.
City Council passed the parking plan in a 5-4 vote on March 6, but the plan was almost immediately held up by a temporary restraining order from Winkler after he received a lawsuit from Curt Hartman, an attorney who represents the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST), on behalf of local activists who oppose the plan and argue it should be subject to referendum.
The legal dispute is centered around City Council's use of emergency clauses, which remove a 30-day waiting period on approved legislation, and the city claims they also remove the possibility of referendum.
In a hearing presided by Winkler on March 15, Hartman argued the city charter's definition of emergency clauses is ambiguous, and legal precedent supports siding with voters' right to referendum when there is ambiguity.
Terry Nestor, who represented the city, said legal precedent requires the city to defer to state law as long as state law is not contradicted in the city charter.
Cincinnati's city charter does not specify whether emergency legislation is subject to referendum, but state law explicitly says it's not.
Opponents of the parking plan say they’re concerned the plan will give up too much control over the city's parking meters, which they say could lead to skyrocketing parking rates.
The city says rates are set at 3 percent or inflation, but the rates can change with a unanimous vote from a special committee, approval from the city manager and a final nod from the Port Authority. The special committee would comprise of four people appointed by the Port Authority and one appointed by the city manager.
The city is pursuing the parking plan to help balance the city's deficit for the next two fiscal years and enable economic development projects, including the construction of a downtown grocery store ("Parking Stimulus," issue of Feb. 27).
The city’s Youth Job Fair needs more employers
to reach the city’s goal of 100, says Mayor Mark Mallory. The fair offers young people a chance to seek out jobs. Employers can sign up for the free booths at www.mayormallory.com.
The petition to stop the parking plan is at 4,000 signatures — nearly half of the 8,522 required before April 5. Under the plan, the city will lease its parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority to help balance the 2014 and 2015 budgets and foster economic development, but opponents say the semi-privatization plan will cede too much control of the city’s parking assets and cause rates to skyrocket. Whether the plan is subject to referendum is currently being debated in court.
JobsOhio, the privatized, nonprofit development agency, met the deadline on a subpoena issued by State Auditor Dave Yost to collect the agency’s full financial records, which include public and private funds. JobsOhio also said it will eventually pay back $1 million in public funds. Gov. John Kasich and other Republicans argued only public funds can be checked by the state auditor, but Yost says he’s allowed to seek a full audit. Kasich and the Republican-controlled legislature approved JobsOhio in part to replace the Ohio Department of Development, which can be fully audited.
In a letter to the Latino Affairs Commission, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine wrote that the children of illegal immigrants should be eligible for driver’s licenses under President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative, which allows the children of illegal immigrants to qualify for a social security number and work permit. DeWine’s letter is not legally binding, but since it’s coming from the state’s top legal adviser, it could put pressure on the Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ legal team as it continues reviewing Ohio’s driver’s license policy.
Policy Matters Ohio, a left-leaning policy research group, is pushing an earned income tax credit (EITC) that could act as a progressive replacement for Gov. John Kasich’s tax plan. The tax credit benefits low- and middle-income people, particularly those with kids. The Policy Matters report says the federal EITC has been one of the most effective anti-poverty policies in the United States.
A bill that will limit the referendum process was pushed through the Ohio House Policy and Oversight Committee, despite warnings from members of the League of Women Voters and Democrats that the bill might draw a constitutional challenge. The bill would give petitioners 10 days to collect additional signatures if their initial submission falls short. Under current law, members can continuously collect signatures while the secretary of state and boards of elections verify the initial batch. The Ohio Constitution gives petitioners 10 days to file, not collect, additional signatures.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld unveiled his three-pronged strategy for reducing city blight. The plan would encourage the passage of a state law that would allow people to trespass abandoned properties to remediate them, focus demolition resources on hazardous buildings and expand the city’s vacant foreclosed property registry.
A report from Catalyst for Payment Reform and Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute gave Ohio and six other states a D for health care transparency. Twenty-nine states got an F, and only New Hampshire and Massachusetts got A’s.
Ohio lawmakers are poised to raise the speed limit on interstates in rural areas to 70 mph.
When The Huffington Post asked Ohio Sen. Rob Portman if he wished it hadn't required a personal experience with gay marriage to alter his position to favor marriage equality, he responded, “Well, it did.” He added, “I'm more of an economic policy wonk. That's always been my background and focus: budget issues and economic growth issues. … That’s just where I was.” Portman came out in support of same-sex marriage two years after finding out his son is gay.
T.J. Lane, the convicted Chardon High School shooter, will spend the rest of his life in prison after murdering three Ohio students. At hearings yesterday, Lane smiled and mocked the victims’ families.
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital is looking to fill more than 1,000 jobs.
NASA's advice for a near-term meteor strike: “Pray.” Due to a severe lack of funding, NASA does not have the proper technology to detect all the small asteroids in orbit that could level cities. If a deadly asteroid is detected, the current plan is to crash a spacecraft on it to slow it down or alter its course.
Would you get a vampire facial?
Policy Matters Ohio is now pushing an earned income tax credit (EITC) that would benefit the state’s poor and middle class, including more than 822,000 working families. The plan could be a progressive replacement for Republican Gov. John Kasich’s proposed tax plan, which some reports claim disproportionately benefits the wealthy.
The EITC is a tax credit targeted at working people who have low to moderate income, particularly those with children. It is currently used by the federal government, 24 states and Washington, D.C.
The report from Policy Matters, a left-leaning policy research group, found a 10-percent EITC would cost about $184 million per year, producing an estimated $224 million in economic benefits, and a 20-percent EITC would cost about $367 million per year, producing an estimated $446 million in economic benefits.
If state legislators set aside Gov. John Kasich’s tax proposals, the state would be left with about $280.4 million in general revenue available for fiscal year 2014 and about $690.2 million available in fiscal year 2015, according to an analysis of Kasich’s budget bluebook. That would be more than enough money in fiscal year 2014 to pay for a 10-percent EITC, and even a 20-percent EITC would only eat up about half of available funds in fiscal year 2015.
Using a model from the nonpartisan Institute for Tax and Economic Policy, the Policy Matters report found a state EITC would benefit Ohioans making less than $51,000 per year. Under a 10-percent credit, qualifying families making less than $18,000 would get $190 on average, qualifying families making between $18,000 and $33,000 would get $323 on average and qualifying families making between $33,000 and $51,000 would get $149 on average, according to the report.
Under a 20-percent credit, benefits would be bumped up to $381 on average for qualifying families making less than $18,000 per year, $646 on average for qualifying families making between $18,000 and $33,000 and $298 for qualifying families making between $33,000 and $51,000, according to the report.
These benefits would then be spent in a way that helps families, local communities and small businesses, according to the Policy Matters report: “Families that claim the EITC use the refunds to pay for basic needs like housing, food, transportation and child care. These purchases stimulate local economies. A number of studies focusing on the economic impacts of the EITC find that small businesses and other taxes benefit from a cash infusion into the local economy.”
The report claims a state EITC would also result in a fairer tax system that better helps the state’s low- and middle-income earners, stronger incentives to work and better social and economic results for EITC recipients.
The Policy Matters report touts the federal EITC, which was created by former President Gerald Ford in 1975 and has been expanded by every presidential administration since, to support adopting a similar policy in the state: “The federal Earned Income Tax Credit does more than any other program to keep working families out of poverty. … (It) is lauded for its direct impact in keeping families with children above the poverty line, making work pay, and sending federal dollars to local communities.”
Anyone making $50,270 a year or less qualifies for the federal EITC. The tax credit is built so it particularly benefits families with children, and it “encourages families making at or near minimum wage to work more hours since the credit has a longer, more gradual phase-out range compared to other programs,” according to the Policy Matters report.
The report says the federal EITC has already benefited more than 950,000 Ohio families with an average refund of $2,238.
In previous analyses, Policy Matters found Kasich’s tax proposals disproportionately benefit the wealthy and actually raise taxes on the state’s poor and middle class (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20). But Kasich says his tax plan will cut taxes for “job creators,” particularly the state’s small businesses.
The governor’s tax proposals are facing bipartisan resistance, and the Republican-controlled Ohio House is currently considering setting the proposals aside while the rest of the budget is worked out, according to Gongwer.
In a press conference on March 14, local officials around the state, including Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, suggested dropping income tax cuts and instead using the revenue to restore local government funding cuts, which have totaled $1.4 billion since Kasich took office.
The Ohio House is looking to rewrite parts of Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal after dissent has focused on the governor’s tax plan. The chamber’s leaders are looking to set aside the tax plan from the bill so they can better focus on other complicated parts of the budget, including the Medicaid expansion and school funding. Even without the governor’s controversial sales tax expansion plan, Kasich’s budget proposal contains enough leftover money to pass some income tax cuts, with about $280.4 million in general revenue available for fiscal year 2014 and $690.2 million available in fiscal year 2015, according to an analysis in the Bluebook. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget proposal in further detail here.
State Auditor Dave Yost says he expects to get the subpoenaed financial records from JobsOhio today by the noon deadline, even though the audit has come under criticism from Gov. Kasich and other state officials. Yost says he should be allowed to look into JobsOhio’s full financial records, which include private funds, but Kasich and other Republicans argue only public funds are open to audit. JobsOhio is a publicly funded nonprofit, privatized development agency that was set up by Kasich and Republican legislators to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development, which is susceptible to a full audit.
Workers for the $78 million U Square project near the University of Cincinnati allege they are being underpaid. In a lawsuit, union workers are claiming they should be paid prevailing wage established in state law because the project is using public funds and 50 percent owned by a public authority.
With the support of City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr., Cincinnati is now looking to cash into its innovative water technology with the formation of the Global Water Technology Hub, which will use expert advice to identify market needs and sell the technology. The city promises the hub will also help keep water rates low for users and find new revenue sources.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld will hold a press conference today to introduce his Restoring Our Communities Initiative, which will seek to fight blight and improve child safety in Cincinnati. The initiative will include a push for the passage of Ohio Senate Bill 16, which would make it so individuals are not liable for trespassing convictions if the person is remediating blight on abandoned personal property. In a statement, Sittenfeld explained the purpose of the initiative: “Blight is a complicated issue that impacts many aspects of life, and I think this plan helps attack the problem from several angles.”
Cincinnati Council’s Budget and Finance Committee unanimously approved $10,000 for the Westwood Square project, which will involve a larger facility for the Madcap Theater, green space and changes to the neighborhood’s entryways to better encourage community pride and economic development.
A new $20 million, seven-story apartment tower with 110 high-end apartments is being planned for Downtown, above the Seventh and Broadway Garage.
Two weeks in, Horseshoe Casino’s executive says the casino is doing well and turnout has been good.
A report found auto insurance rates in Ohio are “a bargain,” with the state having the fourth lowest costs among other states and Washington, D.C.
A machine keeps human livers alive outside a body for 24 hours, which could double the amount of livers available for transplant and save thousands of lives.
Republican Sen. Rob Portman reversed his stance on same-sex marriage after his son came out as gay. The announcement means both Ohio senators are poised to support the Freedom to Marry amendment, which would legalize gay marriage in Ohio and could be on the ballot this year. CityBeat covered FreedomOhio’s efforts to legalize same-sex marriage in Ohio in further detail here.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is asking Gov. John Kasich to reverse local government funding cuts carried out during his tenure as governor. A previous Policy Matters Ohio report found the state has cut local government funding by $1.4 billion since Kasich took office, which happens to be the exact amount Kasich says his tax cuts are worth. The governor’s office has previously argued that Kasich had to make some cuts to help balance an $8-billion deficit inherited from former Gov. Ted Strickland, and Kasich is touting his tax cuts as one way to reinvigorate Ohio’s small businesses. But local officials from around the state say that money is needed in cities, villages and counties.
The Cincinnati parking plan will be in court today to determine whether a temporary restraining order should remain and whether a lawsuit that claims the plan should be subject to referendum should move forward. If the restraining order does remain, the city says it will have to make cuts to balance the budget by July — in time for the 2014 fiscal year. CityBeat wrote more about the lawsuit here and the parking plan here.
State Auditor Dave Yost says he “fully anticipates” he will get the financial records for JobsOhio, the state-funded nonprofit agency that Kasich supports. Some state Republicans and Kasich argue that only JobsOhio’s public funds should be open for audit, but Yost wants to audit all of the agency’s finances. Kasich says he wants JobsOhio to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development, which is susceptible to a full audit.
Plan Cincinnati won the Frank F. Ferris II Community Planning Award from The Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission, which commemorates “a local planning commission or committee whose efforts have contributed to the elevation of planning principles, greater awareness of the value of planning and improved quality of life,” according to a press statement. CityBeat covered Plan Cincinnati, the city’s first master plan since 1980, in further detail here.
Supporters of the Medicaid expansion gathered at a rally yesterday. As part of his budget proposal, Kasich suggested expanding Medicaid, which would cover 456,000 Ohioans by 2022 and save the state money in the next decade, according to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio. Opponents say they fear the plan will leave the state under an unsustainable financial commitment. CityBeat wrote more about the Medicaid expansion and the rest of Kasich’s budget here.
Defense cuts that are part of sequestration, a series of across-the-board spending cuts that kicked in March 1, have forced the Air Force to cancel an Ohio festival.
The development team behind The Banks says it wants to have a hotel built and ready in time for the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game.
Some analysts are doubting Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, which could have bad implications for the local economy.
Higgs Boson, the theorized particle that gives the universe its mass, has been discovered with the help of the Large Hadron Collider.
With the support of local officials from around the state, Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is launching a website called ProtectMyOhio.com to organize efforts to restore local government funding cut during Gov. John Kasich’s time in office.
Speaking during a phone conference today, Sittenfeld, Dayton Commissioner and mayoral candidate Nan Whaley, Columbus Councilman Zach Klein and Toledo Councilman and mayoral candidate Joe McNamara described how state funding cuts have forced cities and counties to cut services.
“What we’re really trying to do today is speak up and sound the alarm about the governor’s ongoing raid on the Local Government Fund,” Sittenfeld said. “Over the last four years, the governor has taken away $3 billion in local government funding. This year alone, municipalities across Ohio are going to receive nearly $1 billion less than they previously would have.”
He added, “This is the exact same money that cities, villages and townships used to keep cops in the street, staff our fire departments, fix the potholes and some of the other basic services that citizens rightly expect and the local governments are the ones responsible for delivering.”
In the past, the Kasich administration has argued the cuts were necessary. When previously asked about cuts to education and other state funding, Rob Nichols, Kasich’s spokesperson, told CityBeat, “The reality is we walked into an $8 billion budget deficit. … We had to fix that.”
But the 2014-2015 budget is not under the fiscal pressures Kasich experienced when he took office, and the governor is pursuing $1.4 billion in tax cuts over the next three years, which he argues will help spur small businesses around the state. During the phone conference, local officials said the revenue going to tax cuts would be better used to return funds to local governments.
Sittenfeld says the cuts have left Cincinnati with $12 million less per year. “That is the difference between us having our first police recruit class in nearly six years versus not having it,” he said. “It’s the difference between enduring dangerous fire engine brownouts versus not having to do so.”
Klein, who represented Columbus in the call, said the cuts have amounted to nearly $30 million for his city, which he said is enough money to help renovate nearly all the city’s recreation centers, parks and pools.
“No one is spared,” Klein said. “Everyone is getting cut across the state, and every neighborhood — no matter if you’re in a small village or in a large city like Columbus, Cleveland, Toledo or Dayton — (is) at some level feeling the effects of the cuts, whether it’s actual cuts in services or what could be investments in neighborhoods.”
Klein said the cuts, which have been carried out by a Republican governor and Republican-controlled legislature, contradict values espoused by national Republicans. At the federal level, Republicans typically argue that states should be given more say in running programs like Medicaid, but Ohio Republicans don’t seem to share an interest in passing money down to more local governments, according to Klein.
Some state officials have previously argued that it’s not the state’s responsibility to take care of local governments, but Sittenfeld says it’s unfair to not give money back to the cities: “Cincinnati is a major economic engine for the entire state. We’re sending a lot of money to Columbus, so I think it’s fair to say we would like some of that money back. John Kasich doesn’t have to fill the potholes, and John Kasich doesn’t have to put a cop on the street.”
Whaley, who represented Dayton in the call, said, “There’s a county perspective on this as well. The counties would certainly say that the unfunded mandates that the state legislature brings down daily are covered by those local government funds. While (state officials) keep on making rules for the counties to administer services and make those efforts, it’s pretty disingenuous to say that (county officials) don’t get a share of the income.”
A Policy Matters Ohio report found the state has cut $1.4 billion from local government funding — nearly half of total funding — during Kasich’s time as governor. The report pinned much of that drop on the estate tax, which was phased out at the beginning of 2013 and would have provided $625.3 million to local governments in the 2014-2015 budget. The estate tax was repealed in 2011 by the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature and Kasich.
Cincinnati had structural deficit problems before Kasich took office, but local officials argue the state’s cut have made matters worse. When presenting his 2013 budget proposal, City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. said the state funding reductions cost Cincinnati $22.2 million in revenues for the year.
Kasich’s office did not return CityBeat’s phone calls for this story.
Kasich’s latest budget proposal has also been criticized by Republicans and Democrats for tax cuts and education funding plans that benefit the wealthy and expanding Medicaid (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20).