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by German Lopez 03.14.2013
Posted In: News, Economy, Budget, Governor at 12:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
p.g. sittenfeld.nar

Sittenfeld to Kasich: Restore Local Government Funding

Report found state has cut local government funding by nearly 50 percent since 2010

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).

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 12.05.2012
 
 
greg hartmann

County Commissioners Reduce Property Tax Rollback

Two-to-one vote cuts rollback in half for two years to make up stadium fund deficit

Hamilton County homeowners can expect a larger bill come tax time. The Hamilton County Board of County Commissioners on Wednesday voted to halve the property tax rollback promised to voters as part of the package to build the two downtown sports stadiums.

The rollback saves property owners $70 in taxes for every $100,000 of valuation. For the next two years they will be paying an extra $35 per $100,000 of their home’s value.

The money will be used to balance the stadium fund, which faces a $7 million deficit. The rollback reduction is expected to raise about $10 million. The board voted 2-1 for the proposal, with sole Democrat Todd Portune dissenting.

“The property tax rollback measure that has been advanced so far buys us only one year, and next year we will be doing the same thing we are doing today,” Portune said.

Portune favored raising the sales tax by 0.25 cents — to 6.75 — per dollar, which would have raised more than $30 million over 10 years. His proposal, which failed to receive any support, would have expired after the 10 years and gone up for review annually after the first five. 

Portune said his proposal was more equitable. He said reducing the property tax rollback was going to affect only Hamilton County residential property owners, whereas a sales tax increase would affect everyone who spends money in the county, including visitors from neighboring Kentucky and Indiana.

Portune billed the tax increase as a long-term solution that would raise more than was needed currently but would keep the fund stable in years to come.

Board President Greg Hartmann, who authored the rollback reduction proposal, called Portune’s plan “a bridge too far.” He said it was too large of a tax increase and not a targeted approach to solve the deficit problem. He said he didn’t trust future commissions to allow the tax increase to expire.

Hartmann called the property tax rollback reduction flexible, scalable, clean, immediate and certain.

Commissioner Chris Monzel, who provided the deciding vote, said he didn’t like either and had to go against his principles with either choice.

“No way I walk out of this without breaking a promise. No way I walk out of this winning,” he said.

Monzel said he hopes that savings from the Affordable Care Act would allow the county to lower its property tax rates to make up for the rollback reduction.

Monzel also introduced a successful proposal that will include an annual review of the tax budget to make sure property taxes don’t change, a provision requiring parking revenue from The Banks to be used to develop The Banks and a directive for the county administrator to work with Cincinnati’s professional sports teams on concessions they can make to help out with the stadium funding burden.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.10.2012
Posted In: Economy, News, LGBT Issues at 02:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
freedomtomarryohio

Ohio Supports Same-Sex Marriage

New poll shows slim Ohio majority embraces gay marriage

For the first time, a Washington Post poll shows 52 percent of Ohioans support same-sex marriage, and only 37 percent say it should be illegal.

With a margin of error of 4.5 points, it’s possible the September poll could be too optimistic, but the poll shows a sharp contrast to 2004, when 62 percent of Ohioans voted in favor of a constitutional amendment defining marriage between a man and a woman.

The poll also found support for same-sex marriage growing in Florida and Virginia. In Florida, 54 percent support same-sex marriage, while 33 percent say it should be illegal. In Virginia, 49 percent support same-sex marriage, and 40 percent want it to be illegal. Both are increases in support in comparison to previous years.

The news comes at a time when FreedomOhio is stepping up its efforts to get an amendment legalizing same-sex marriage in Ohio on the 2013 ballot.

CORRECTION: This article originally credited Equality Ohio for the amendment. The amendment push is being led by FreedomOhio, a different pro-gay marriage organization.

The campaign for Freedom to Marry Ohio, the amendment that would legalize same-sex marriage, previously touted an economic study that showed Ohio could bring in $100-126 million of economic growth within three years of legalizing same-sex marriage and sustain 1,160-1,450 Ohio jobs. In Hamilton County, same-sex marriage legalization would bring in $8.3 million. However, the study did not take into account a phenomenon dubbed “marriage tourism,” which involves same-sex couples visiting a state mostly to get married; so it’s possible the economic impact could be even greater than the study suggests.

The study also found that more than 9,800 out of more than 19,600 same-sex marriage couples in Ohio would marry within three years if it was legal, and nearly 900 out of nearly 1,800 in Hamilton County would marry within three years.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg previously touted same-sex marriage legalization for its economic boost to his city. He said it had produced $259 million in economic growth in New York City.

 
 
by German Lopez 06.17.2013
Posted In: News, Economy at 11:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Ohio Is No. 46 for Job Creation

State has added 4,400 jobs in past year

An infographic from Pew Charitable Trusts shows Ohio ranked No. 46 out of all the states for job creation in the past year, beating only Wisconsin, Maine and Wyoming and tying with Alaska.

Between April 2012 and April this year, Ohio added 4,400 jobs — a 0.1-percent increase in the state's employment.

The three states below Ohio and Alaska — Wisconsin, Maine and Wyoming — had a drop in employment ranging from 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent.

North Dakota topped the rankings with 15,900 new jobs — a 3.7-percent increase in employment — largely driven by the state's ongoing oil and gas boom.

The statistics coincide with previous warnings from liberal and conservative think tanks about the state's economy, signifying that Ohio is not undergoing the "economic miracle" that Gov. John Kasich and other state officials often tout.

Here is the full infographic, which uses job data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Update (1:57 p.m.): Clarified that Ohio tied, not beat, Alaska.

 
 
by German Lopez 10.18.2012
Posted In: 2012 Election, News, Voting, Economy, Bailout at 10:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
sherrod brown

Brown, Mandel Continue ‘Clash of Ideas’

U.S. Senate candidates engage in second round of attacks

For a full hour Thursday night, Democratic incumbent Sherrod Brown and Republican challenger Josh Mandel continued their feisty fight for Ohio’s U.S. Senate seat. For the most part, the debate centered on the candidates’ records and personal attacks, with policy specifics spewing out in between.

Apparently, the barrage of attacks is not what the candidates had in mind before the debate started. Throughout the debate, both candidates asked for substance, not attacks. At one point, Brown said, “I appreciate this clash of ideas. That’s what this debate should be about.” At another point, Mandel said, “We need less attacking, and we need more policy ideas to put people back to work.”

These comments came well into the debate. By that time, Mandel had criticized Brown for “Washington speak” so many times that an exasperated Brown quipped, “I don’t get this. Every answer is about Washington speak.”

Brown also launched his own attacks, which focused on Mandel’s dishonesty on the campaign trail, which previously earned Mandel a “Pants on Fire” crown from Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer, and Mandel, who is also Ohio’s treasurer, missing state treasurer meetings to run for political office.

But Ohioans have seen enough of the attacks in the hundreds of campaign ads that have bombarded the state in the past year. Voters probably want to hear more about how each candidate will affect them, and the candidates gave enough details to get some idea of where each of them will go.

On economic issues, Brown established the key difference between the two candidates’ economic policies: Mandel, like most of his Republican colleagues, believes in the trickle-down theory. The economic theory says when the rich grow, they can create jobs by hiring more employees and expanding businesses. In other words, proponents of the theory believe the success of the rich “trickles down” to the middle class and poor through more job opportunities. Belief in this theory is also why most Republicans call the wealthy “job creators.” Under the trickle-down theory, the wealthy are deregulated and get tax cuts so it’s easier for them to create jobs.

On the other hand, Brown says he supports a middle-out approach, which focuses on policies that target the middle class. That is how sustainable employment and growth are attained, according to Brown. Under the middle-out approach, tax cuts and spending policies target the middle class, and the wealthy own a higher tax burden to support government programs.

Some economists, like left-leaning Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, say the trickle-down theory should have been put to rest with the financial crisis of 2008. After all, deregulation is now credited with being the primary cause of 2008’s economic crisis. In that context, more deregulation seems like a bad idea.

Still, Brown’s contrast to Mandel holds true. Brown has repeatedly called for higher taxes on the rich. In the debate, he touted his support for the auto bailout and once again mocked Mandel’s promise to not raise any taxes. These are policies that do end up benefiting the middle class more than the wealthy. The auto bailout in particular has been credited with saving thousands of middle-class jobs.

On the other side, Mandel told debate watchers to go to his website and then offered some quick talking points: simplify the tax code, end Wall Street bailouts and use Ohio’s natural gas and oil resources “in a responsible way.” How Mandel wants to simplify the tax code is the issue. On his website, Mandel says he supports “a flatter, fairer income tax with only one or two brackets, eliminating almost all of the credits, exemptions and loopholes.” A study by five leading economists suggests a flat tax model would greatly benefit the wealthy and actually hurt the well-being of the middle class and poor. That matches with the trickle-down economic theory. 

Another suggestion on Mandel’s website says, “Help job creators. Reduce capital gains and corporate taxes, and allow for a small business income deduction.” The small business portion would help some in the middle class, but an analysis from The Washington Post found 80 percent of capital gains incomes benefit 5 percent of Americans and half of all capital gains have gone to the top 0.1 percent of Americans. So a capital gains tax cut would, again, match the trickle-down economic theory.

What all this means is on economic issues the choice of candidates depends mostly on what economic theory a voter believes. Brown believes in focusing economic policies that target the middle class, while Mandel mostly supports policies that generally support what he calls “job creators” — or the wealthy.

On partisanship, both sides once again threw out different ideas. Although he was asked for three ideas, Brown only gave one: fix the filibuster. The filibuster is a U.S. Senate procedure that allows 41 out of 100 senators to indefinitely halt any laws. The only way to break the filibuster is by having a supermajority of 60 senators — a rarity in American politics. Brown said if this rule was removed, a lot more could get done in Congress.

Mandel had different ideas for stopping partisan gridlock in Washington, D.C. He touted his support for No Budget, No Pay, which would require members of Congress to pass a budget in order to get paid. He also expressed his support for term limits, saying lifelong politicians only add to the partisanship in Congress. Then, in a strange twist, Mandel’s last suggestion was to stop bailouts, which has nothing to do with partisanship or gridlock in Congress.

Then came Obamacare. Brown said he was “proud” of his vote and continued supporting the law, citing the millions of Americans it will insure. Meanwhile, Mandel responded to the Obamacare question by saying, “The federal government takeover of health care is not the answer.”

The fact of the matter is Obamacare is not a “government takeover of health care.” Far from it. The plan doesn’t even have a public option that would allow Americans to buy into a public, nonprofit insurance pool — an idea that actually has majority support in the U.S. Instead, Obamacare is a series of complicated reforms to the health insurance industry. There are way too many reforms to list, but the most basic effect of Obamacare is that more people will be insured. That’s right, in the supposed “government takeover of health care,” insurance companies actually gain more customers. That’s the whole point of the individual mandate and the many subsidies in Obamacare that try to make insurance affordable for all Americans.

Mandel made another misleading claim when he said Obamacare “stole” from Medicare, with the implication that the cuts hurt seniors utilizing the program. It is true Obamacare cuts Medicare spending, but the cuts target waste and payments to hospitals and insurers. It does not directly cut benefits.

The one area with little disagreement also happened to be the one area with the most misleading: China. It’s not a new trend for politicians to attack China. The Asian country has become the scapegoat for all economic problems in the U.S. But in this election cycle, politicians have brandished a new line to attack China: currency manipulation. This, as Ohioans have likely heard dozens of times, is why jobs are leaving Ohio and why the amount of manufacturing jobs has dropped in the U.S. In fact, if politicians are taken at their word, it’s probably the entire reason the U.S. economy is in a bad spot.

In the Brown-Mandel debate, Brown repeatedly pointed to his currency manipulation bill, which he claims would put an end to Chinese currency manipulation. Mandel also made references to getting tough on China’s currency manipulation.

One problem: China is no longer manipulating its currency. There is no doubt China greatly massaged its currency in the past to gain an unfair advantage, but those days are over, says Joseph Gagnon, an economist focused on trade and currency manipulation. Gagnon argues the problem with currency manipulation is no longer a problem with China; it’s a problem with Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia. If the U.S. wants to crack down on currency manipulation, those countries should be the targets, not China, he argues.

In other words, if currency manipulation is a problem, Mandel was right when he said that countries other than China need to be targeted. To Brown’s credit, his currency manipulation bill targets any country engaging in currency manipulation, not just China. The problem seems to be the misleading campaign rhetoric, not proposed policy.

The debate went on to cover many more issues. Just like the first debate, Brown typically took the liberal position and Mandel typically took the conservative position on social issues like gay rights and abortion. Both touted vague support for small businesses. Each candidate claimed to support military bases in Ohio, although Mandel specified he wants bases in Europe closed down to save money. As far as debates go, the contrast could not be any clearer, and the candidates disagreed on nearly every issue.

The final debate between the two U.S. Senate candidates will take place in Cincinnati on Oct. 25.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.11.2013
Posted In: News, Gun Violence, Health care, Business, Economy at 10:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
mikedewine

Morning News and Stuff

State gets C in human trafficking, Kasich funds mental health, mall businesses evicted

An annual human trafficking report released by Attorney General Mike DeWine gave Ohio a C. The grade, which comes from Shared Hope International, was a step up from D's in the previous two years. But DeWine says it’s not enough, and further action will be taken. Ohio has made some strides on the human trafficking issue, including passage of a new “Safe Harbor” law for sex-trafficking victims, new details for minor trafficking victims and the training of 24,000 law-enforcement officers to better detect and help trafficking victims.

Gov. John Kasich is giving $5 million to mental health services to help curb and prevent violence. The news comes in the wake of school shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14 and a California high school yesterday. Mental health services are important, but so is gun control, as CityBeat pointed out here. Vice President Joe Biden is currently heading an investigation to make suggestions on gun control to President Barack Obama.

The remaining businesses in Tower Place Mall were told to get out. Cassidy Turley, the court-appointed receiver of the mall, apparently filed eviction notices telling businesses to leave by March. The mall has been struggling for some time now, and the city of Cincinnati is currently in the process of trying to buy it. City Manager Milton Dohoney says the city had no part in the evictions.

The city of Mason is apparently becoming a technology corridor. Since 2011, the city has brought in $110 million in investments and created 1,400 jobs. The new jobs are related to technology, robotics, automation, innovation and health care.

Warren and Butler counties are apparently seeing a surge in sales tax revenue. The budgetary boost is being seen by some as a sign of further economic expansion.

Surrounded by dogs, Gov. Kasich signed legislation effectively banning puppy mills. Previously, animal advocates claimed lax rules and regulations had made Ohio a breeding ground for abusive practices. The lack of oversight also helped enable Ohio’s dog auctions, which CityBeat covered here. The new law will go into effect within 30 days.

An Ohio school is apparently arming janitors. Previously, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters made a suggestion to arm school staff, but research shows it doesn’t help deter or stop acts of violence.

Natural gas is being slightly deregulated in Ohio. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) is allowing two companies — Columbia Gas of Ohio and Dominion East Ohio Gas — to eliminate regulated pricing for businesses, with some conditions. Supporters say the move will create more competition and lower prices, but the deregulation gives a substantial advantage to two big energy companies.

Congress is apparently less popular than head lice, but it’s more popular than Lindsay Lohan. Damn. Does that mean people prefer head lice to Lindsay Lohan? Even Nickelback and Ghengis Khan beat Congress. Poor Lindsay.

Science has now found that animal grunts can act similarly to Morse code. Is this yet another warning of the impending animal takeover?

 
 
by German Lopez 12.17.2012
Posted In: Gun Violence, News, 2013 Election, Mayor, Budget, Economy at 09:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
dawn hochsprung

Morning News and Stuff

More on Newtown massacre, City Council passes budget, Dillingham to run for council

By now, most of you have heard there was another horrible mass shooting, this time in Newtown, Conn., that resulted in the death of 20 children and six adults. While everyone is hoping this is the last time the nation has to deal with an event of unspeakable horror, it is only a possibility if we agree to do something about it. That means remembering the heroes who risked their lives and, in some cases, died that day. That means not letting the media and public drop the issue, as has been the case in the past. That means looking at more than just gun control, including mental health services. The Washington Post analyzed what “meaningful” action on gun control would look like, and the newspaper also disproved the idea Switzerland and Israel are “gun-toting utopias.” President Barack Obama also spoke on the issue at a vigil Sunday, calling for the nation to do more to protect people, particularly children, from violence. The full speech can be watched here.

City Council approved its 2013 budget plan Friday. The budget relies on the privatization of city parking assets to help plug a $34 million deficit and avoid 344 layoffs. The budget also nixed the elimination of a tax reciprocity for people who lived in Cincinnati but worked elsewhere and paid income tax in both cities, and it continued funding the police department’s mounted unit. As a separate issue, City Council voted to increase the property tax by about 24 percent, reversing a move from conservatives in 2011. CityBeat wrote about budgets at all levels of government and how they affect jobs here.

Michelle Dillingham, who was an aide to former city councilman David Crowley, will seek Democratic support in a run for City Council. Dillingham promises to tackle “industry issues of mutual interest" to business and labor and “transportation funding, family-supporting wages and workforce development.”

At a recent public hearing, mayoral candidate John Cranley proposed a “very easy” plan for the city budget. Only problem: His plan doesn’t work. In an email, Cranley said he stands by his ideas, but he added he was working with limited information and his statements were part of a two-minute speech, which “requires brevity.” He also claimed there are cost-cutting measures that can be sought out without privatizing the city’s parking assets and gave modified versions of his ideas regarding casino and parking meter revenue.

Judge Robert Lyons, the Butler County judge who sealed the Miami rape flyer case, is standing by his decision.

The Greater Cincinnati area is near the top for private-sector growth. 

Jedson Engineering is moving from Clermont County to downtown Cincinnati, thanks in part to an incentive package from City Council that includes a 45 percent tax credit based on employees earnings taxes over the next five years and a $300,000 grant for capital improvements. The company was a Business Courier Fast 55 finalist in 2008 and 2009 due to its high revenue growth.

Gov. John Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan is getting some support from Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, but others are weary. They fear the plan, which leverages the turnpike through bonds for state infrastructure projects, will move turnpike revenues out of northern Ohio. But Kasich vows to keep more than 90 percent of projects in northern Ohio.

Gas prices are still falling in Ohio.

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is making some concessions in fiscal talks. In his latest budget, he proposed raising taxes on those who make more than $1 million a year.

One beagle can diagnose diseases by sniffing stool samples.

 
 
by German Lopez 01.22.2013
Posted In: Education, Energy, Environment, Economy, News, Budget at 10:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)
 
 
debe terhar

Morning News and Stuff

Terhar compares Obama to Hitler, Cincinnati unemployment drops, Portman's deficit plan

Ohio State Board of Education President Debe Terhar posted an image of Adolf Hitler on Facebook that said, “Never forget what this tyrant said: ‘To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens.’ — Adolf Hitler.” But the Cincinnati Republican, who was referencing President Barack Obama’s gun control proposals, now insists she was not comparing Obama to Hitler. It’s pretty obvious she was, though.

Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropped to 6.7 percent in December, down from 6.9 percent in November. The drop is largely attributed to a decrease in the civilian labor force, which could imply less people are looking for work or seasonal changes are having an impact. Whatever the case, the amount of people who are employed and unemployed both dropped. Hamilton County’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate dropped to 6.2 percent in December, down from 6.4 percent in November, but that drop was also attributed to a declining labor force or seasonal factors. Greater Cincinnati’s seasonally unadjusted unemployment rate was unchanged from 6.4 percent, despite 2,600 less people working. In comparison, Ohio’s seasonally unadjusted rate was 6.6 percent in December, up from 6.5 percent in November, and the U.S. rate was 7.6 percent, up from 7.4 percent.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, an Ohio Republican, suggested the Dollar-for-Dollar Deficit Reduction Act. The plan requires debt ceiling increases to be matched by an equal amount of spending cuts. Increasing the debt ceiling is essentially Congress agreeing to pay its bills. During the budget process and while passing other legislation, Congress agrees to a certain amount of spending. Increasing the debt ceiling just makes it possible for the president to pay those bills, even if it means surpassing a set debt level. If the debt ceiling isn't raised by May 18, the United States will default on its debts, plunging the country into depression. But the threat of destroying the U.S. economy has not stopped Republicans from using the debt ceiling as a negotiation tool to get the spending cuts they so badly want.

Public employees are avoiding changes to Ohio’s public pension system by retiring before the changes kick in. The changes make it so any teacher who retires before July 1 will get a 2 percent cost of living increase to their pensions in 2015. Anyone who retires after July 1 will not get the increase until 2018. After that, retirees will get a pension increase every five years. Experts are also expecting a rush of retirees in 2015, when age and years-of-service requirements for full benefits are set to gradually rise.

A new report found Ohio’s graduation rate is still improving. The U.S. Department of Education report found the state’s graduation rate was 81.4 percent in the 2009-10 school year, higher than the nation’s rate of 78.2 percent, and an increase from 78.7 percent rate in the 2006-2007 school year.

A study found a link between hourly workers at Hamilton County’s Fernald Feed Materials Production Center and intestinal cancer. 

As Ohio cuts back its solar program, Canada is shutting down the rest of its coal-fired power plants by the end of 2013.

The Cincinnati Reds may get to host the 2015 All-Stars Game.

Scientists are rushing to build robots that save lives in disaster zones. Will John Connor please stand up?

 
 
by German Lopez 10.23.2013
Posted In: News, Privatization, Economy at 03:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

National Report Criticizes JobsOhio, Other Privatized Agencies

Good Jobs First says privatized agencies create scandals, not jobs

JobsOhio and other privatized development agencies have created scandals and potential conflicts of interests instead of jobs, claims an Oct. 23 report from Good Jobs First, a research center founded in 1998 that scrutinizes deals between businesses and governments.

The report looked at privatized development agencies in seven states, including Ohio, and found that many of the same problems and scandals appear from state to state.

“These experiments in privatization have, by and large, become costly failures,” the report found. “Privatized development corporations have issued grossly exaggerated job-creation claims. They have created ‘pay to play’ appearances of insider dealing and conflicts of interest. They have paid executives larger salaries than governors. They have resisted basic oversight.”

The report focuses much of its findings on JobsOhio, a privatized development agency that Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislators established in 2011 to replace the Ohio Department of Development. The agency uses tax subsidies and other financial incentives to attract companies to Ohio with the intention of creating jobs.

But the report states JobsOhio “assembled a board of directors whose members included some of (Kasich’s) major campaign contributors and executives from companies that were recipients of large state development subsidies. It received a large transfer of state monies about which the legislature was not informed, intermingled public and private monies, refused to name its private donors, and then won legal exemption (advocated by Gov. Kasich) from review of its finances by the state auditor.”

It found similar issues in privatized development agencies in Wisconsin, Arizona, Indiana, Florida, Rhode Island and Michigan. In some cases, the scandals have cost states millions of dollars with little job creation to show for it, according to the report.

The latest report concurred many of the findings in a similar 2011 report from Good Jobs First, which sought to warn states, including Ohio, about the potential risks of privatized development agencies.

For JobsOhio, a major cause for concern in the report is how difficult it is to hold the agency accountable. State legislators have approved multiple measures that shield JobsOhio from public scrutiny, including exemptions that exclude the agency from public records laws, open meeting rules and the possibility of a full public audit.

Some of the controversy also focuses on how the state funds JobsOhio.

“The proposal called for ‘leasing’ the state liquor profits ($228 million the year prior) for up to 25 years to JobsOhio, which would eventually issue $1.4 billion in bonds to pay for the use of the funds,” according to the report. “Critics charged that this was not a fair market price for profits that could potentially amount to $6 billion over the term of the agreement.”

The report laments that the privatized and secretive agency represents a shift for Ohio, which the report claims “was an early practitioner of online subsidy disclosure.”

Good Jobs First concludes privatized development agencies perpetuate an economic environment in which big companies already have too much say.

“The privatization structures we describe here, including the increasing use of corporate seats for sale on governing or advisory boards, absolutely favor large businesses that have the money and executive staff time to pay and play at such levels,” the report concluded. “But small businesses already get short shrift in economic development resource allocation, and they are still suffering the most in the Great Recession’s aftermath.”

The organization also takes issue with the idea that public agencies aren’t “nimble”: “In all of our years tracking development deals, we have yet to hear of a state agency that lost an important deal because it failed to provide labor market or real estate or incentive data in a timely manner.”

Asked about the report, Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols responded in an email, “We don't pay much attention to politically-motivated opponents whose mission is to combat job creation.”

Kasich and other Republicans claim JobsOhio’s privatized, secretive nature is necessary to secure job-creating development deals with private companies in an economic environment that, through the Internet and globalization, moves more quickly than ever before.

Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, claim the agency is ripe for abuse, difficult to hold accountable and unclear in its results.

State Auditor Dave Yost plans to release an audit of JobsOhio soon, but no specific date or time frame is set for the release. The audit was granted prior to state legislation that barred the state auditor from doing a full sweep of JobsOhio’s financial details.

The full report:


 
 
by German Lopez 04.19.2012
 
 
streetcar

Rebuilding Cincinnati: City vs. Kasich

Cincinnati is moving forward, despite the better attempts of state Republicans

In his State of the City address last week, Mayor Mark Mallory called on Cincinnati to continue pushing for improvements. After years of stalling, projects like Washington Park’s renovation, the Horseshoe Casino and the streetcar are finally moving forward, and Mallory wants to make sure that work continues.

Politically and economically, it makes sense. Not only have voters approved of both the casino and the streetcar, but the projects will create jobs. Casino developers have already begun to fill what they promise will be 1,700 permanent jobs, and city estimates show the first segment of the streetcar will create 300 construction jobs and 25 permanent jobs.


But while voters and local politicians may approve, some state Republicans are doing their very best to tear the projects down. Gov. John Kasich, who dismantled Ohio’s passenger rail project, tried his hardest to continue his anti-transit rampage by railing against the streetcar in public speeches last year. He even ripped away more than $50 million in state funds from the project.


The casino has been a little luckier, but not by much. Kasich has claimed both neutrality and approval of casinos, but he has made building the Horseshoe Casino more difficult. Despite the fact Ohio has the highest casino tax in the nation, Kasich pushed for renegotiations for higher taxes and fees last year, ultimately delaying the casino’s opening from late 2012 to spring 2013.


For the governor, such actions probably make sense. Kasich has been an ardent supporter of tax cuts — sneaking them into every single budget even when Ohio had a reported $8 billion deficit. When he found massive education and health care cuts weren’t enough to close the gap he helped create, he moved onto casinos and transit projects.


Still, the projects move forward. Kasich and other state Republicans have not been successful in killing them off, largely thanks to local voters and local politicians pushing back.


Last year, voters rejected Issue 48, which tried to ban all investments in rail transportation for the next decade. Last week, Mallory announced CAF USA was already drawing up designs for the streetcar, and the first car could be finished as soon as 18 months from now.


Meanwhile, the casino’s construction is 35 to 40 percent complete, according to developers. This is despite an accident in January that resulted in the injury of 20 workers after a steel beam fell and caused a floor to partially collapse.


But what needs to be clear is that these developments are in spite of state Republicans like Kasich. When these job-creating projects are said and done, it’s important credit goes where credit is due — straight to local voters and local politicians.
 
 

 

 

 
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