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by German Lopez 01.30.2013
Posted In: News, Economy, Education, Voting, Budget, Taxes at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
capitol hill

Morning News and Stuff

Austerity hurts U.S. economy, voter suppression returns, state income tax benefits rich

Between October and December, the U.S. economy unexpectedly shrank by 0.1 percent — the first contraction since 2009. The downturn was primarily caused by the threat of conservative fiscal policies, particularly defense spending cuts. Dropping business inventories also helped drag down the economy. Otherwise, consumer and business spending was actually strong.

Some Republicans want another go at reducing voting rights. Rep. Mike Dovilla, chairman of the newly created House Policy & Legislative Oversight Committee, says he wants to consider measures that crack down on alleged voter fraud, including reduced voting times and a photo ID requirement to vote. But in-person voter fraud is not a real problem. News21, a Carnegie-Knight investigative reporting project, found only 10 cases of in-person voting fraud in the United States between 2000 and 2012. That’s not even one case of in-person fraud each year. The real reason Republicans want to enact stricter voting measures is to hinder young, minority voters that typically support Democrats. One study found 700,000 young, minority voters were excluded by photo ID laws in 2012.

A Policy Matters Ohio report found Ohio’s income tax hits the poor and middle class a lot harder than the wealthy. The numbers from the report: “The top 1 percent of non-elderly Ohio families by income, who earned at least $324,000 in 2010, on average pay 8.1 percent of their income in state and local income, property, sales and excise taxes. By contrast, the lowest fifth, who make less than $17,000, on average pay 11.6 percent. Families in the middle fifth of the income spectrum, who make between $31,000 and $49,000, on average pay 10.6 percent.”

Cincinnati is extending its contract with Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (SORTA) for a month despite an ongoing conflict, but the supposed conflict is really much ado about nothing. SORTA wants the city to guarantee it won’t use the transit fund for the streetcar, but City Council has already passed a resolution saying it won’t and Mayor Mark Mallory has repeatedly stated he will not use the transit fund for the streetcar. Due to the mayor’s race, the streetcar will be facing another contentious year at the ballot box, which CityBeat covered in-depth here.

More than 60 percent of Greater Cincinnati entrepreneurs are expecting a net profit in 2013. Most of them also expect to hire part-time employees, according to a new survey from the Entrepreneurs’ Organization. The survey is another sign of rising confidence in the U.S. economy.

The Dayton Daily News reports manufacturing is driving economic growth in Ohio, to the benefit of more than half of the state’s counties.

When defending Ohio's charter school and voucher programs, conservatives often tout the magic of “school choice,” but a Policy Matters report found school choice may hurt education standards in the state.

Ed FitzGerald, a popular Democrat from Cuyahoga County, is gearing up to run for the governor's race in 2014.

Scientists have taught bacteria to eat electricity. The trick could eventually be used to turn microorganisms into a biofuel source.

by German Lopez 02.22.2013
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

City could raise rate cap, Cranley's website against parking plan, superintendent pays up

While fact checking an interview, CityBeat discovered it will be possible to circumvent the parking plan’s cap on meter rate increases through a multilayer process that involves approval from a special committee, the city manager and the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority. The process adds a potential loophole to one of the city manager’s main defenses against fears of skyrocketing rates, but Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, says raising the cap requires overcoming an extensive series of hurdles: unanimous approval from a board with four members appointed by the Port Authority and one selected by the city manager, affirmation from the city manager and a final nod from the Port Authority. Olberding says the process is necessary in case anything changes during the 30-year time span of the parking deal, which CityBeat covered in detail here.

Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley launched DontSellCincinnati.org to prevent the city manager’s parking plan, which semi-privatizes the city’s parking assets. The website claims the plan gives for-profit investment companies power over enforcement, guarantees 3-percent rate increases every year and blows through all the money raised in two years. The plan does task a private company with enforcement, but it will be handled by Xerox, not a financial firm, and must follow standards set in the company’s agreement with the Port Authority. While the plan does allow 3-percent rate increases each year, Olberding says the Port Authority will have the power to refuse an increase — meaning it’s not a guarantee.

Arnol Elam, the Franklin City Schools superintendent who sent an angry letter to Gov. John Kasich over his budget plan, is no longer being investigated for misusing county resources after he paid $539 in restitution. CityBeat covered Elam’s letter, which told parents and staff about regressive funding in Kasich’s school funding proposal, and other parts of the governor’s budget in an in-depth cover story.

To the surprise of no one, Ohio’s oil lobby is still against Kasich’s tax plan, which raises a 4 percent severance tax on oil and wet gas from high-producing fracking wells and a 1 percent tax on dry gas.

Local faith leaders from a diversity of religious backgrounds held a press conference yesterday to endorse the Freedom to Marry and Religious Freedom Amendment, an amendment from FreedomOhio that would legalize same-sex marriage in the state. Pastor Mike Underhill of the Nexus United Church of Christ (UCC) in Butler County, Rabbi Miriam Terlinchamp of Temple Sholom, Pamela Taylor of Muslims for Progressive Values and Mike Moroski, who recently lost his job as assistant principal at Purcell Marian High School for standing up for LGBT rights all attended the event. CityBeat covered the amendment and its potential hurdles for getting on the 2013 ballot here.

Vanessa White, a member of the Cincinnati Public Schools board, is running for City Council. White is finishing her first four-year term at the board after winning the seat handily in 2009. She has said she wants to stop the streetcar project, but she wants to increase collaboration between the city and schools and create jobs for younger people.

The Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles’ (BMV) policy on providing driver’s licenses to the children of illegal immigrants remains unclear. Since CityBeat broke the story on the BMV policy, the agency has shifted from internally pushing against driver’s licenses for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients to officially “reviewing guidance from the federal government as it applies to Ohio law.” DACA is an executive order from President Barack Obama that allows the children of illegal immigrants to qualify for permits that enable them to remain in the United States without fear of prosecution.

A survey from the Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments found locals are generally satisfied with roads, housing and issues that affect them everyday. The survey included 2,500 people and questions about energy efficiency, infrastructure, public health, schools and other issues.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine revealed 7,000 Ohioans have received more than $280 million in consumer relief as part of the National Mortgage Settlement announced one year ago. The $25 billion settlement between the federal government and major banks punishes reckless financial institutions and provides relief to homeowners in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.

Ohio received a $3 million federal grant to continue improving the state’s health care payments and delivery programs.

Cincinnati home sales reached a six-year high after a 27-percent jump in January.

CityBeat’s Hannah “McAttack” McCartney interviewed yours truly for the first post of her Q&A-based blog, Cinfolk.

Crows have a sense of fairness, a new study found.

by German Lopez 03.11.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, City Council, Taxes, Privatization, Parking at 08:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Parking plan on hold, mall renovations to go ahead, Kasich's sales tax plan under fire

Cincinnati’s plan to lease parking assets to the Port of Greater Cincinnati Development Authority remains on hold as a lawsuit arguing the law should be subject to referendum works through the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court. The legal dispute is focused on City Council’s use of the emergency clause, which eliminates a 30-day waiting period on implementing laws and takes away the possibility of a referendum. Emergency clauses are routinely deployed in City Council, but opponents of the parking plan say that doesn’t make them right.

Whether the parking deal does go through or not, the Tower Place Mall renovations will be carried out. The city originally included the renovations as part of the plan, but Meg Olberding, city spokesperson, told The Cincinnati Enquirer that the city is planning on selling the the property to a subsidiary of JDL Warm Construction for an undisclosed sum, and the company will then pay an estimated $5 million for the redevelopment.

Gov. John Kasich’s plan to expand the sales tax to fund tax cuts is being heavily criticized by some members of the business community, but Rep. Ron Amstutz, chairman of the Ohio House Finance & Appropriations Committee, says he is looking into ways to save the proposal. Kasich’s plan would expand the application of the sales tax to include more services, including cable TV and admission to sport events, but it would lower the sales tax rate from 5.5 percent to 5 percent and carry out 20-percent across-the-board income tax cuts. CityBeat wrote about Kasich’s budget proposal in further detail here.

As part of Kasich’s education plans, the state’s school voucher program is expanding to help students meet a Third Grade Reading Guarantee, which requires third-graders pass a test in reading proficiency before they can move onto fourth grade. Supporters argue the voucher program provides more choice and control for parents, but opponents say the state should not be paying for private educations. A previous Policy Matters Ohio report found expanded school choice through more vouchers can have negative effects on education, including worse results for students and teachers.

State Auditor Dave Yost is pushing for a full audit of JobsOhio, the publicly funded private, nonprofit agency, but Republican state legislators are joining Kasich in opposition. The opposing Republicans say the state auditor can track any public funds used for JobsOhio, but they say the agency is allowed to keep its private funds under wraps. Kasich says he plans to replace the Ohio Department of Development, which can be fully audited by the state auditor at any time, with JobsOhio.

The Ohio Department of Education apparently knew or should have known of ongoing data scrubbing in schools as early as 2008, according to The Toledo Blade. Emails acquired by The Blade show officials analyzed and discussed data reports that year after media reports detailed how urban districts excluded thousands of test scores on state report cards.

Supporters of the Anna Louise Inn gathered Friday in celebration of International Women’s Day and to stand against Western & Southern’s repeated efforts to run the Inn out of the neighborhood.

The U.S. Census Bureau says Cincinnati commutes are much shorter than the national average, with only 2.9 percent of Cincinnatians spending more than 60 minutes one-way during their commute, as compared to the 8.1 percent national average.

The Cincinnati Enquirer unveiled its new tabloid format today. Ben Kaufman says it looks nice and arrived on time.

The Killers are coming to the Horseshoe Casino.

A new study says results from fMRI scans are unintentionally distorted and inaccurate — to the point that some studies on the human brain that use fMRI results may be seriously questionable.

by German Lopez 11.22.2013
Posted In: News, Streetcar, Economy, Taxes at 10:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Streetcar cancellation costs outlined, Ohio joblessness spikes, state to repay overpaid taxes

Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick yesterday revealed that the city might only keep $7.5-$24.5 million if it cancels the $132.8 million streetcar project, after accounting for $32.8 million in sunk costs through November, a potential range of $30.6-$47.6 million in close-out costs and $44.9 million in lost federal grant money. But Mayor-elect John Cranley flatly denied the numbers because he claims the current city administration “is clearly biased toward the project and intent on defying the will of the voters.” Meanwhile, at least two of the potential swing votes — incoming council members David Mann and Kevin Flynn — showed skepticism toward the estimates, although Mann said, “If they do hold up, that’s fairly persuasive.” Three elected council members already support the streetcar project, so only two of the three potential swing votes would need to vote in favor of it to keep it going.

Ohio’s unemployment rate rose to 7.5 percent in October, up from 6.9 percent a year before. The state added only 27,200 jobs, which wasnt enough to make up for the 31,000 newly unemployed throughout the past year. The numbers paint a grim picture for a state economy that was once perceived as one of the strongest coming out of the Great Recession. In comparison, the U.S. unemployment rate actually decreased to 7.3 percent from 7.9 percent between October 2012 and October 2013. (This paragraph was updated with the nonfarm numbers.)

The Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) will repay $30 million plus interest to businesses that overpaid taxes throughout the past three years. The announcement came after Ohio Inspector General Randall Meyer found ODT had illegally withheld $294 million in overpayments over the years. Meyer’s findings were made through what was initially a probe into alleged theft at ODT.

Outgoing Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan could request an automatic recount because she came tenth out of the nine elected council members, right after Councilwoman-elect Amy Murray, by only 859 votes. But Quinlivan and Hamilton County Board of Elections Chairman Tim Burke agreed the recount would be a long-shot. Still, Quinlivan noted that a flip in the count could be a big deal because she supports the streetcar project and Murray opposes it.

Cincinnati Public Schools are trying to expand their recycling efforts.

Here is an interactive infographic of meat production in 2050.

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by Danny Cross 07.13.2012

Morning News and Stuff

A citizen committee has determined that levy-funded Hamilton County social-service agencies need to provide their services with fewer resources, advising that property owners pay the same levy rate despite decreases in property values that will reduce funding for groups that help senior citizens and people with mental illnesses. The decision by the 11-member committee will reportedly affect 30,000 residents who rely on such agencies to provide services such as meal delivery and counseling. In order to keep funding level the levy would have had to increase the cost for the owner of a $100,000 home by $6. 

From The Enquirer: 

Bosses of the Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio had already agreed to live on less, but argued against some committee recommendations.

Those include:

• Raising the age criteria. Currently 9 percent of clients are between 60 and 70 years old. An agency spokeswoman said that’s because services are disability-based. Some “younger” seniors – those suffering from strokes and early Alzheimer’s, for instance – have more needs than older people.

• Requiring new clients to meet U.S. legal resident requirements. According to the agency, screening for U.S. citizenship would make the program ineligible to use Older Americans Act dollars, at a cost of almost $1.2 million a year. The spokeswoman said all clients live in the county.

Enquirer reporters Carrie Whitaker and Janice Morse broke from traditional journalistic standard on Tuesday by reporting the names of teenagers involved in an alleged theft and police chase. The three girls, ages 16, 14 and 12, were identified by full name and as being from Avondale and Pleasant Ridge. A follow up story on Wednesday reported two of the girls being released from the hospital. It also included the minors’ names and did not include a reporter’s byline.

Jean Schmidt sided with Democrats on an attempt to stop Republicans from cutting even deeper the funding for the national food stamp program. The legislation that passed will cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by more than $16 billion over 10 years. GOP lawmakers wanted it cut by $33 billion. 

Iran put on a missile show on Friday, demonstrating the accuracy of its long-range missiles and their ability to hit Western bases and Israel

Headline: “Wells Fargo Posts $4.6 Billion Profit, Up 17%.” Big ups, Wells Fargo!

Condoleezza Rice as Romney’s running mate? Sarah Palin says it’s a good idea. 

A nearly complete skeleton of a human ancestor has been found in South Africa. 

by German Lopez 03.26.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Economy, Taxes at 09:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
Sheriff Jim Neil

Morning News and Stuff

Sheriff wants more staff, businesses get tax credits, Ohio Senate to look at gambling bill

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.

A study from NerdWallet found Cincinnati is the No. 1 city in the nation for consumer banking.

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.

by German Lopez 02.21.2013
Posted In: News, City Council, Governor, Budget, Economy, Taxes at 10:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Rush to rent underway, sales tax plan criticized, city's retirement system beats projections

A new report found “renters by choice” — those who can afford to own a house but choose not to — and people returning to the market in the Great Recession’s aftermath may be driving a rush to rent in Cincinnati, reports The Cincinnati Enquirer. The report from CB Richard Ellis found the average apartment occupancy rate was 93.6 percent in 2012, underscoring the need for new apartments in Downtown and Over-the-Rhine. News of the report came just one day after City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. announced his parking plan, which will add 300 luxury apartments to Downtown.

Gov. John Kasich and Ohio legislators are getting some bad feedback on the governor’s plan to broaden the sales tax, reports Gongwer. Numbers from Policy Matters Ohio found the sales tax plan would outweigh sales and income tax cuts for the lower classes, but won’t be enough to dent tax savings for the wealthiest Ohioans. CityBeat covered Kasich’s budget in detail here.

Not much new information came from a special City Council meeting last night that covered Cincinnati’s public retirement system, reports WVXU. The one piece of new information was that preliminary numbers show Cincinnati's Retirement System had an 11.9 percent return on its investments in 2012 — higher than the 7.5 percent that was originally projected.

Mayor Mark Mallory is using his plan to lower Cincinnati’s infant mortality rate to try to win the Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge. Mallory’s proposal would create an Infant Vitality Surveillance Network, which allows pregnant women to enroll in First Steps, a care program that maintains a secure database of new mothers and monitors pregnancies, according to a press release from the mayor’s office. The program could be especially helpful in Cincinnati, which has a higher infant mortality rate than the national average. The Bloomberg challenge pits mayors around the country against each other to win $5 million or one of four $1 million prizes for their programs aimed at solving urban problems and improving city life. With Mallory’s program, Cincinnati is one of 20 finalists in the competition. Fans can vote on their favorite program at The Huffington Post.

A local nun may have committed voter fraud, reports WCPO. Rose Marie Hewitt, the nun in question, died Oct. 4, but the Hamilton County Board of Elections still received a ballot from her after she died. Hewitt apparently filed for an absentee ballot on Sept. 11 — less than one month before she died. In a letter to Board of Elections director Tim Burke, Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters wrote there’s enough probable cause to believe criminal activity occurred.

In 2012, 88,068 new entities filed to do business in the state — making the year the best ever for new state filings, according to Secretary of State Jon Husted.

A new bill in the Ohio legislature that allows poll workers to help blind, disabled and illiterate voters file their ballots is getting widespread support, but another bill that makes it more difficult to get issues on the ballot is getting a stern look from Democrats, reports Gongwer.

Think your landlord is bad? An Ohio landlord allegedly whipped a late-paying tenant, reports The Associated Press.

The University of Cincinnati surpassed its $1 billion fundraising goal for the Proudly Cincinnati campaign, reports the Business Courier.

President Barack Obama is coming back to Ohio to give the commencement speech at Ohio State University, reports the Business Courier.

Donald Trump is threatening Macy’s protesters with a lawsuit because they want the Cincinnati-based retailer to cut ties with Trump, who is currently contracted as a spokesperson, reports the Business Courier.

Popular Science has seven reasons coffee is good for you.

by German Lopez 06.20.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Taxes, Police at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)

Morning News and Stuff

Texting while driving eludes police, parking lease stalled, Ohio tax code still complex

Even though it’s now illegal under local and state law, texting while driving often eludes punishment in Greater Cincinnati. The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department has issued no tickets so far to vehicular texters, while the Cincinnati Police Department has given out 28, with only four going to teenagers. Although almost everyone acknowledges the dangers of texting while driving, police say it’s very difficult to catch texters in the act, especially since most of them claim they were just making phone calls.

Otto Budig, board chairman of the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, apparently told The Cincinnati Enquirer that the Port Authority won’t sign the parking lease until it gets assurances about city funding. City Council considered pulling $100,000 from the Port Authority while putting together the budget for fiscal year 2014. Now, Budig says the Port Authority wants some sort of financial assurance, perhaps as part of the parking lease, that the city won’t threaten future funding. The city announced Tuesday it had signed the lease, but some opponents, including Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, are still looking for ways to repeal the plan.

A Policy Matters Ohio report found the state’s tax code remains complicated under the Ohio Senate budget plan and the budget actually added tax breaks, despite earlier promises of simplification from House and Senate leaders. Meanwhile, Mike Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans, says the General Assembly will take up tax reform later in the year. The Ohio Department of Taxation says the tax breaks will cost Ohio nearly $8 billion in fiscal year 2015, and Policy Matters says many of the exemptions, deductions and credits are wasteful.

Commentary: “Republican Medicaid Opposition Ignores Ohio’s Best Interests.”

JobsOhio topped a ranking from Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) that looks at government agencies’ “unrelenting commitment to undermining the public's right to know.” IRE mocked JobsOhio and the state Republicans for making it increasingly difficult to find out how the agency uses its public funds. Democrats, including gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald, have also criticized Republicans for blocking a public audit of JobsOhio, which was established by Gov. John Kasich and Republican legislators in 2011 to eventually replace the public Ohio Department of Development. JobsOhio’s supporters argue the agency’s privatized, secret nature allows it to move at the “speed of business” to better boost the economy.

The Cincinnati Museum Center is looking to ask Hamilton County residents to renew its operating levy in May 2014, even though the museum promised in 2009 that it wouldn’t do so. The museum argues circumstances have changed, with Union Terminal crumbling and in need of about $163 million in repairs. When the museum originally made its promise against more operating levies, it was expecting to make repairs through a capital levy, but Hamilton County commissioners dismissed that idea. Hamilton County commissioners will have to approve the operating levy before it goes on the ballot.

An Ohio bill would ban anyone under the age of 18 from tanning at a salon unless a doctor gives permission for medical reasons. This is the third time Ohio legislators have proposed measures against indoor tanning in recent years.

Personhood Ohio, the anti-abortion group trying to ban abortions in Ohio by defining life as beginning at conception, is fundraising by selling assault rifles.

Here is a map showing how green Earth is in the most literal terms.

We now have an explanation for why everyone is so nice and loving to CityBeat’s Hannah McCartney: A study found people are mostly mean to their unattractive coworkers.

Got questions for CityBeat about anything related to Cincinnati? Submit your questions here and we’ll try to get back to you in our first Answers Issue.

CityBeat is looking to talk to convicted drug offenders from Ohio for an upcoming cover story. If you’d like to participate or know anyone willing to participate, email glopez@citybeat.com.

by German Lopez 02.08.2013
Posted In: Economy, News, Budget, Mayor, Taxes at 10:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Parking vandalism, Cranley demands debate, Kasich plan limits counties

Damaged parking meters in Over-the-Rhine are causing problems for residents and local businesses. For months, thieves have been cutting off the top of meters to steal change. The vandals directly steal revenue from the city, ensure the damaged meters won’t collect revenue until they’re fixed and force the city to shell out more money to fix the meters. Businesses and residents are also worried the damaged meters cause confusion for drivers and make the area look unattractive.

Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley wants to debate Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, a Democrat who’s also running for mayor, over the city’s plan to privatize parking services. Cranley, a former council member, has pushed the city to find an alternative to the privatization plan — sometimes leading him to make claims with little backing. Qualls isn’t ecstatic about the privatization plan, but she seems to side with City Manager Milton Dohoney’s position that it’s necessary to avoid the layoff of 344 city employees.

County officials around the state are peeved at Gov. John Kasich’s budget plan because it limits how much they can leverage in county sales taxes. The proposal bars counties from changing their sales tax rates for three years starting July 2013, and it also adjusts county’s rates to force a 10 percent revenue increase over the prior year beginning December 2013. The Kasich administration claims the move is necessary to prevent county governments from using the governor’s plan to subtly raise the sales tax, but county officials argue the move infringes on local rights. Kasich’s plan lowers the state sales tax rate from 5.5 percent to 5 percent, but it expands what’s affected by the tax.

CityBeat analyzed Kasich’s budget proposal yesterday:

  • CPS Still Loses Funding Under Kasich Administration: The budget does increase school funding for Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS), but it’s not enough to make up for the last state budget cuts to CPS.
  • Kasich Tax Cut Favors Wealthy: Kasich claims he’s giving a tax cut to every Ohioan, but a new report from Policy Matters Ohio shows the poor and middle class will pay more on average under his plan.

Kasich’s school funding plan is also drawing complaints from school leaders. At a press conference, Kasich made his plan sound fairly progressive, but school leaders found the actual numbers underwhelming, and 60 percent of schools won’t get any increased funding.

City Council Member Chris Seelbach took to Facebook to slam Cranley for some recent comments regarding freestanding public restrooms. During an interview with Bill Cunningham, Cranley tried to politicize the issue by saying City Council wants to build a $100,000 freestanding restroom. In his Facebook post, Seelbach explained that’s not the case: “John Cranley, if you haven't heard (which I find surprising), NO ONE on City Council has ever said, in any capacity, that we should spend $100,000+ on a 24-hour public restroom facility. No one. In fact, I went on Bill Cunningham to make that clear. I'd appreciate if you'd stop trying to politicize the real issue: Finding a way to offer more public restroom choices in our urban core for our growing and thriving city. In case you didn't hear my interview with Cunningham, or my comments to almost every media source in this region, I'll post the interview again.” Seelbach’s interview with Cunningham can be found here.

Clifton’s new grocery store will begin construction next week. Goessling's Market-Clifton is finally replacing Keller's IGA on Ludlow Avenue.

A local high school’s prom was canceled to punish students for a massive water balloon fight at lunch. The giant fight was planned as a prank on social media, and school staff tried to prevent it by warning students of the repercussions on the day of the prank. Students did not listen. Prom was lame, anyway.

PNC Bank donated $450,000 to Smale Riverfront Park. The money will be used to build the PNC Grow Up Great Adventure Playground, which will have a swinging rope bridge for kids to walk across a canyon. PNC is among a handful companies to donate to the riverfront park; most recently, Procter & Gamble donated $1 million.

Cincinnati was called the most literate city in Ohio.

The Montgomery County Democratic Party endorsed the Freedom to Marry Amendment, which would legalize same-sex marriage. CityBeat wrote about the amendment here.

Kasich’s latest budget proposal would privatize food services in prisons to save $16.2 million. The Ohio Civil Service Employees Association, which represents prison staff, has come out against the plan.

A lawsuit has been filed to take down a Jesus portrait in Jackson Middle School in southern Ohio. The lawsuit is being backed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio and the Freedom from Religion Foundation. They argue the portrait is an “unconstitutional endorsement of religion and must be removed.”

A new cure for color blindness: goofy glasses.

There’s new evidence that a giant asteroid really sparked earth’s last great mass extinction event, which killed the dinosaurs.

by German Lopez 06.19.2013
Posted In: Budget, News, Taxes at 10:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
ohio statehouse

Report: Ohio Tax Code Increasingly Complicated

Reform may come later this year

Politicians and economists often talk favorably about simplifying the tax code, but a June 17 report from Policy Matters Ohio found Ohio’s tax code will remain complicated under the budget plan being discussed in the Ohio House and Senate.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for House Republicans says reform will come through separate bills later this year.

The Policy Matters report, titled “Breaking Bad: Ohio tax breaks escape scrutiny,” found the state’s tax code will include 129 tax exemptions, deductions and credits if the Senate’s 2014-2015 budget is approved — one more tax break than the previous biennium. Altogether, the Ohio Department of Taxation estimates the tax breaks will cost Ohio nearly $8 billion in fiscal year 2015.

The Senate budget repealed two tax breaks, but it simultaneously added or expanded a dozen, according to the report. Among the additions was a 50-percent income tax deduction for business owners worth up to $375,000 of annual income, which Policy Matters says will largely benefit passive investors, one-man firms and partnerships that will not add jobs.

Policy Matters found 44 tax breaks have been eliminated since 2003 because of the elimination of corporate franchise and estate taxes. But in that time frame elected officials have added and expanded so many new tax breaks that there are now only nine less tax breaks than there were in 2003.

The report claims many of the tax breaks are wasteful. One example: An almost $20 million a year exemption for pollution-control equipment purchased by utility companies. The report says most of the purchases are already mandated by the state government, which means the state is effectively paying companies to follow the law and regulations.

The report ultimately calls for thorough, regular reviews of the state’s tax breaks.

“It is time for the General Assembly to scrutinize spending through the tax code as it does other state expenditures,” said Zach Schiller, report author and research director at Policy Matters Ohio, in a statement.

At the beginning of the 2014-2015 budget process, House Speaker William Batchelder (R-Medina) and Senate President Keith Faber (R-Celina) said one of their goals was to simplify the tax code. Mike Dittoe, spokesperson for Batchelder and Ohio House Republicans, says such reform will now be pursued in separate bills, probably later in the summer or fall.

“The budget is obviously a very labor-intensive process and there’s lots of moving parts,” he says. “A lot of members of the House and Senate just want to make sure that things get done right.”

Instead of simplifying the tax code in the budget, Republican legislators are focused on passing tax cuts. The House and Senate are currently working on reconciling their separate tax plans by merging and downsizing them. The joint plan is “likely to be unveiled in its entirety here over the next few days,” Dittoe says.

The House approved a 7-percent across-the-board income tax cut in its budget plan. But the Senate cut the House’s tax proposal and approved a tax deduction for business owners instead. Supporters say the tax cuts will spur the economy and create jobs, while opponents claim the plans are misguided and will fail to lift the lower and middle classes.