by German Lopez
Posted In: Budget
at 10:13 AM | Permalink
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The Senate budget repealed two tax breaks, but it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.
by German Lopez
The civil rights icon embraced many progressive causes
If his speeches and other comments are any indication,
Martin Luther King Jr. would likely stand in sharp opposition to modern
Ohio Republicans and many of their proposed policies.
In reviewing King’s work, speeches and quotes, it’s clear
he was a progressive on a wide range of issues — from voting rights to collective bargaining rights to
reproductive rights. In contrast, modern Republicans are doing their
best to dilute such rights and scale back progressive causes on a host
of other issues.
Given that it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, what
better time to look back at some of King’s positions and analyze what
they could mean in terms of today’s politics? Warning: The results might upset some Republicans.
On voting rights:
“So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the
right to vote, I do not possess myself,” King said, according to PBS. “I
cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a
democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can
only submit to the edict of others.”King and other civil rights activists saw the right
to vote as the most crucial stepping stone to equality. In fact, one of the defining accomplishments of the Civil Rights
Movement was the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which attempted to ban discrimination
in the voting booth.
“Give us the ballot and we will transform the salient
misdeeds of blood-thirsty mobs into calculated good deeds of orderly
citizens,” King said.
More specifically, the Voting Rights Act helped undo
several voting restrictions taken up against minority voters in the South. The restrictions rarely outright banned black voters; instead,
Southerners took up backhanded standards, such as literacy tests and
poll taxes, that many black voters couldn’t meet.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because, by at least one top
Ohio Republican’s admission, growing restrictions on early voting also
help curtail black voters — who, by the way, happen to vote for Democrats in
“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the
voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American —
voter-turnout machine,” said Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin
County Republican Party and close adviser to Gov. John Kasich, in an
email to The Columbus Dispatch.
In other states, Republicans are taking similarly restrictive approaches
and passing stringent voter ID laws, even though one study found it discriminates against young, minority voters.Especially given Preisse’s comments, it’s clear King would not approve of Republican actions. King saw enough oppression in Southern voting booths to know better.On labor unions and “right to work”:
“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard
against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a
law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to
destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which
unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone,” King
said, according to the Economic Policy Institute. “Wherever these laws
have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there
are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We
demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”In this statement, King unequivocally disavows restrictions on unions and collective bargaining rights.
Meanwhile, Gov. Kasich and top Ohio Republicans remain mum
on whether they support anti-union laws like “right to work,” much to
the chagrin of tea party groups that strongly support such efforts.
But it’s clear Kasich and Ohio Republicans support some
restrictions on unions and collective bargaining. In 2011, the
Republican-controlled legislature and governor approved Senate Bill 5, a
bill that significantly curtailed public unions and their collective
Almost immediately, labor unions rallied in opposition to
the effort and took the issue to referendum. Voters overwhelmingly
rejected S.B. 5 the following November, dealing a major blow to Republicans and a huge
political boost to unions and Democrats.Despite the rejection, some conservatives continue pushing anti-union causes. The
tea party-backed group Ohioans for Workplace Freedom aims to get an
anti-union “right to work” initiative on the ballot in 2014.Considering King’s strong pro-union statements, it’s clear he would stand against Ohio Republicans’ and the tea party’s anti-union efforts if he lived today. On the death penalty:
“I do not think God approves the death penalty for any
crime — rape and murder included,” King said, according to Stanford
University. “Capital punishment is against the best judgment of modern
criminology and, above all, against the highest expression of love in
the nature of God.”King’s comment clearly disavows the death penalty, even
for the gravest crimes, based on his religious perspective and
study of criminology.
Perhaps more than any other issue on this list, King’s stance on the death penalty could upset some Democrats as much as some Republicans. But even though support for the death penalty crosses partisan lines, it’s much more pronounced on the Republican side of the spectrum.
In recent days, the debate over the death penalty reignited in Ohio after Gov. Kasich’s administration took 26 minutes to execute a gasping, grunting convicted killer with a new cocktail of drugs that was never tried before in the United States.
The prolonged execution, the longest since Ohio resumed
use of the death penalty in 1999, led some legislative Democrats to push
new limits or even an outright ban on capital punishment. It’s expected
the Republican majority will ignore the bills.Based on his claims, King would oppose the state-sanctioned killing of a convicted killer, and he certainly would reject any defense that touts vengeance as a justification for killing another human being.On health care:
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care
is the most shocking and inhuman,” King said, according to Dr. Quentin
Young, who attended King’s speech at the 1966 convention of the Medical
Committee for Human Rights.
Whether King’s quote indicates support for Democrat-backed
legislation like Obamacare or other measures, such as a single-payer
system, is completely unclear. But King’s rhetoric certainly comes
closer to Democrats’ support for universal access to health care than Republicans’
opposition to governmental incursions into the U.S. health care
To Gov. Kasich’s credit, he helped alleviate the
“inequality” and “injustice in health care” King referred to by
aggressively pursuing the federally funded Medicaid expansion.But Kasich was in the minority of the Ohio Republican
Party in his pursuit. The state legislature’s Republican majority
refused to approve the Medicaid expansion in the two-year state budget
and later bills. When Kasich finally got the Medicaid expansion done
through the seven-member Controlling Board, several legislative
Republicans joined an unsuccessful lawsuit to reverse the decision.Accordingly, King would probably praise Kasich for opening up access to health care, and it’s doubtful he would support Republicans in their attempts to block health care for the poor.On reproductive rights:
“For the Negro, therefore, intelligent guides of family
planning are a profoundly important ingredient in his quest for security
and a decent life,” King said, according to Planned Parenthood. “There
are mountainous obstacles still separating Negroes from a normal
existence. Yet one element in stabilizing his life would be an
understanding of and easy access to the means to develop a family
related in size to his community environment and to the income potential
he can command.”King’s comments on reproductive rights came as he accepted the first round of the Margaret Sanger Awards from Planned Parenthood, an organization now demonized by Republicans for its support for abortion and reproductive rights.
Now, nothing in King’s comments implies he supported
abortion rights, even though some historians believe King, a strong Christian,
accepted a more liberal interpretation of the Bible.But King’s comments — and even his mere acceptance of the
Planned Parenthood award — show strong support for reproductive
rights for low-income men and women. In that respect, King is clearly
going against Ohio Republicans’ pursuits.
In the 2014-2015 state budget, a Republican majority
passed new funding restrictions on Planned Parenthood and other
comprehensive family planning centers. Some of the restrictions hit
family planning clinics that don’t offer abortions.
Even though King’s stance on abortion is unclear, his
comments clearly contradict efforts to restrict access to family
planning clinics and reproductive rights. Once again, he would not approve of the Republican agenda.
by German Lopez
Tea party lands school board seats, death penalty scrutinized, AG campaigns spar over role
Fiscal conservatives and tea party activists won more
seats on local school boards last year, putting them in the awkward
position of supposedly looking out for the school’s best interests while
rejecting property tax levies that could boost schools’ resources and outcomes. As one example, a member of the Coalition
Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) now sits on the board for Kings Schools in Warren County that she once sued for public records.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio on Sunday
called on Gov. John Kasich to immediately halt the death penalty across
the state, following the botched, 26-minute execution of convicted
killer Dennis McGuire. The execution, the longest since Ohio restarted using
capital punishment again in 1999, utilized a new cocktail of drugs that had
never been tried before in the United States. It’s unclear whether
state officials will use the same drugs for the five other executions
planned for the year.David Pepper, the Democratic candidate for attorney
general, says Republican Attorney General Mike DeWine should stop
defending court-rejected, unconstitutional voting and ballot restrictions. DeWine argues that it’s the attorney general’s job to
defend Ohio and its laws, regardless of his opinion on constitutionality. But
DeWine actually stepped aside and assigned a separate attorney to a case
involving restrictions on “false statements” in political campaigns
because, according to him, the law’s constitutionality is questionable.Martin Luther King Jr. and modern Republicans would likely
stand in opposition on numerous issues, including voting rights, the
death penalty and reproductive rights.A top policy aide for Gov. Kasich says local
governments should share more services. But some municipal officials argue the Kasich
administration is just trying to deflect criticisms regarding local government
funding cuts carried out by his Republican administration and the
Republican-controlled legislature over the past few years.The Justice Department is investigating a former chief
judge of Cincinnati’s federal appeals court for nearly $140,000 in
travel expenses he took during his four and a half years on the bench.Fewer Ohio students need remedial college classes following high school graduation.U.S. House Speaker John Boehner called a fellow Republican an asshole, according to Democratic U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro.Seven out of 10 people will live in cities by 2050, according to Popular Science.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
by German Lopez
Letter to governor points to new cocktail of drugs as culprit
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Ohio on
Sunday asked Gov. John Kasich to halt the death penalty across the
state, following the botched execution of convicted killer Dennis McGuire
that reportedly lasted 26 minutes.McGuire’s prolonged execution, the longest since Ohio
resumed capital punishment in 1999, was carried out on Jan. 16 with a
new cocktail of drugs that had never been tried before in the United
States. The use of the new drugs came about after Ohio ran out of its
previous supplies.With its letter, the ACLU joined other groups, including
Ohioans to Stop Executions, in calling for an end or pause to
state-sanctioned killing.“This is not about Dennis McGuire, his terrible crimes, or
the crimes of others who await execution on death row,” reads the ACLU
letter. “It is about our duty as a society that sits in judgment of
those who are convicted of crimes to treat them humanely and ensure
their punishment does not violate the Constitution.”The letter adds, “We are mere months away from new
recommendations from the Ohio Supreme Court Taskforce on the
Administration of the Death Penalty that could alter our system for the
better. On the eve of monumental changes, along with increasing problems
with lethal injection, is not now the time to step back and pause?”McGuire’s family also announced on Friday it would file a lawsuit claiming his death constituted “cruel and unusual punishment.”Five more people await execution in Ohio this year, according to the ACLU. It’s
unclear whether the state will use the same cocktail of drugs following
by German Lopez
FitzGerald picks running mate, Cranley opposes double dipping, Hunter pleads not guilty
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald on Friday announced his new running mate: Sharen Neuhardt, a Dayton-area business
attorney and twice-failed candidate for Congress. The choice boosts the
ticket’s credentials with women and abortion-rights advocates, but it
also reinforces support for pro-choice policies that upset many Republicans and
conservatives. FitzGerald originally picked State Sen. Eric Kearney as
his running mate, but Kearney dropped out of the race after multiple
media reports uncovered he owed more than $800,000 in tax debt. CityBeat covered the gubernatorial race and how the economy could play into it in further detail here.Mayor John Cranley on Friday reiterated his opposition to double dipping, even though he supports hiring an assistant city
manager who will take advantage of the practice. Because Bill Moller is a
city retiree, he will be eligible to double dip — simultaneously take a
salary ($147,000 a year) and pension — when the city hires him in
February. Cranley called the practice “abusive” on the campaign trail,
but he says it’s up to City Council to pass legislation that prevents it.Hamilton County Juvenile Court Judge Tracie Hunter on
Friday pleaded not guilty to nine felony charges, including accusations
of backdating court documents, theft in office and misusing her county
credit card. The Ohio Supreme Court on Jan. 10 replaced Hunter until her case is decided. The felony charges are just the latest for the judge, who has been mired in controversy
after controversy since before she won her election.State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are pushing an initiative for the November ballot that would embed “voter rights”
into the Ohio Constitution. The Democrat-backed constitutional amendment is in direct
response to Republican-led attempts to shrink early voting periods and
restrict access to the ballot.A propane gas shortage in some parts of the state led Gov.
John Kasich to suspend state and federal laws that keep propane
suppliers off the roads on weekends.State Treasurer Josh Mandel’s failed Senate campaign sold
an SUV totaled in March — effectively averting an insurance review that
might have clarified the vehicle’s use and insurance status — shortly after
questions arose over the continued use of the vehicle months after
Mandel’s Senate campaign ended.Secondhand smoke increases the odds of hospital
readmission for children with asthma, according to a study from
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and Penn State Milton S.
Hershey Children’s Hospital.Google’s smart contact lens could help diabetics.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
0 Comments · Wednesday, January 15, 2014
The Ohio Supreme Court
appointed a retired judge to replace Hamilton County’s embattled
juvenile judge while she fights multiple felony counts.
by German Lopez
Incoming assistant city manager eligible to receive pay and pension benefits
Mayor John Cranley told CityBeat Friday that he's still troubled by the practice of "double dipping," but he said the incoming assistant city manager is only eligible to receive a salary and pension benefits because of policy set by City Council.Bill Moller will be rehired by the city in February to fill in as assistant city manager. Because Moller is a city retiree, he'll be eligible to draw a city salary ($147,000 a year) and pension benefits.The concern: Allowing city workers to double dip, or tap into both a
salary and pension benefits, could encourage the kinds of abuse
already seen in other municipalities, where public workers can reach eligibility for
maximum pension benefits, retire one day and get rehired the next day to effectively receive both a salary and pension. The extra cost — effectively a double payout for city retirees who are rehired — could further strain Cincinnati's structurally imbalanced operating budget.On the campaign trail, Cranley called double dipping "abusive" after City Council repealed a ban on the practice so the administration could hire John Deatrick, a city retiree, to lead the $132.8 million streetcar project.Cranley said he will sign any legislation reinstating the ban on double dipping. As a council member, Cranley
supported the ban when it was originally instated in 2008.Under the previous ban, city retirees rejoining the administration would need to temporarily forfeit pension benefits or face substantial limits on salaries and health benefits.Despite his opposition to double dipping, Cranley cautioned that he still supports Moller's hire."Obviously I like Bill Moller," he said. "But the city manager is working within current policy."The city administration on Tuesday justified Moller's hire by pointing to his previous budget and finance experience in Cincinnati, Hamilton and Covington."At this point in time, Cincinnati needs not only someone
who is proficient in all aspects of municipal finance, but in the
aspects of the city of Cincinnati’s finances in particular. Mr. Moller
has that experience," wrote Interim City Manager Scott Stiles in a memo.It remains unclear whether a ban on double dipping would influence Moller's decision to return to the city administration.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 12:25 PM | Permalink
Constitutional amendment could appear on November ballot
State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are mobilizing a campaign to get a "Voter Bill of Rights" on the Ohio ballot this November.If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would preserve the 35-day early voting period, expand early voting hours, allow voters to cast a provisional ballot anywhere in a given county, advance online voter registration and effectively prevent legislators from passing stricter voter ID laws in the future.But before it ends up on the ballot, supporters will need to gather 1,000 petition signatures to get the initiative in front of the attorney general and collect 385,247 total signatures by July 2 to file the petition to the secretary of state.The Democrat-backed amendment is in direct response to attempts by Republicans, including Secretary of State Jon Husted and Gov. John Kasich, to shorten Ohio's early voting period and otherwise restrict access to the ballot.A bill currently working through the Ohio legislature would trim the early voting period from 35 to 29 days and effectively end the "Golden Week" in which voters can register to vote
and file a ballot on the same day. It's expected Kasich and Republican legislators will approve the bill.Republicans say the limits are supposed to prevent voter fraud and establish uniform voting standards across the state. Otherwise, some counties might establish longer early voting hours than others.But some Republicans acknowledge that restrictions on early voting could suppress constituents that typically elect Democrats, obviously to Republicans' advantage."I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process
to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout
machine," wrote Doug Preisse, close adviser to Kasich, in a 2012 email to The Columbus Dispatch.The constitutional amendment could also help address concerns raised last year when the U.S. Supreme Court repealed parts of the Voting Rights Act that allowed the federal government to better regulate state-level restrictions on voting.In response to some of the concerns, Democratic candidates plan to hold a voting rights forum in Cincinnati on Martin Luther King Jr. Day next Monday. Attorney general candidate David Pepper, secretary of state candidate Nina Turner and state auditor candidate John Carney are scheduled to attend.The Voter's Bill of Rights:
by German Lopez
Troubled execution draws critics, activists push voters' rights, Preschool Promise needs help
A condemned Ohio killer took more than 20 minutes to die in an execution carried out yesterday with a combination of drugs never tried before in the United States. The execution was one of the longest since Ohio resumed capital punishment in 1999. Throughout the nearly 25 minutes that Dennis McGuire took to die, he reportedly gasped and loudly snorted as family members and reporters watched. McGuire's attorney called the execution "a failed, agonizing experiment" and added, "The people of the state of Ohio should be appalled at what was done here today in their names." The new execution method was adopted after the previous drug's supplies ran out because a manufacturer declared it off limits for state-sanctioned kills.In response to the troubled execution, the family plans to file a lawsuit. Ohioans to Stop Executions also called for a moratorium on the death penalty.State Rep. Alicia Reece and other activists are pushing a Voter Bill of Rights that could end up in front of Ohio voters in November. If approved by voters, the constitutional amendment would preserve the 35-day early voting period, expand early voting hours, allow voters to cast a provisional ballot anywhere in the county and advance online voter registration. Many of those measures are controversial to Republicans, who have repeatedly tried to limit early voting in the past couple years. But to get the amendment on the ballot, activists will need to wade through the long, costly process of gathering roughly 385,000 eligible signatures by July 2.Commentary: "Republicans Continue Hindering Access to the Ballot."Cincinnati's campaign for universal preschool is looking for volunteers to help raise awareness and shape the final proposal. The big question is how tuition credits for local families, particularly low-income parents, would be funded under the proposal. Despite the remaining questions, voters could vote on the initiative in November. CityBeat covered the Preschool Promise in greater detail here.The National Weather Service called a Winter Weather Advisory
for most of the Cincinnati area until 4 p.m. today. Drivers should
expect reduced visibility and one or two inches of snow, mostly before
noon.As expected, Ohio officials appealed a ruling that forces the state to acknowledge same-sex marriages on death certificates.The University of Cincinnati is spending more than $500,000 this year on
lights, cameras and off-duty patrols, among other measures, to address continuing concerns about violent crimes around campus.
But some students and parents say the school should pursue more
aggressive efforts, such as selling anti-crime tools in the campus
bookstore.Greater Cincinnati Water Works reopened local intakes along the Ohio River after the W. Va. chemical spill passed yesterday.Cincinnati officials admit yesterday that a pile of old road salt should have been used before other supplies, but the city says it will use the remaining pile before purchasing more salt. Councilman Charlie Winburn raised questions about the salt after he discovered the $316,000 pile.Cincinnati ranked fifth for number of bedbug treatments in 2013.More than 50,000 employees will get job training through the second round of the Ohio Incumbent Workforce Training Voucher Program, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency.Extreme heat forced authorities to suspend the Australian Open for more than four hours yesterday and caused one athlete to hallucinate images of Snoopy.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
City appears ready to pause streetcar project
3 Comments · Wednesday, December 4, 2013
Mayor John Cranley and a majority of City
Council appear ready to halt Cincinnati’s $132.8 million streetcar
project on Dec. 4.