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Cranley Opposes Double Dipping

0 Comments · Wednesday, January 22, 2014
Mayor says incoming assistant city manager is only eligible to receive a salary and pension benefits because of policy set by City Council.  
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 The Senate budget repealed two tax breaks, but it simultaneously added or expanded a dozen, according to the report.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.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.14.2014
Posted In: News, Budget, City administration, City Council at 04:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Acting City Manager Shakes Up Leadership Positions

New assistant city manager could "double dip" into pension and salary

Cincinnati’s city manager, law and budget offices will see major shakeups in the coming months, the city administration announced Tuesday, and one of the new hires is a former city retiree who might tap into his pension while receiving a salary from the city.Bill Moller is a city retiree who will be eligible to “double dip” into his pension and a city salary ($147,000 a year) when the city rehires him in February to fill an opening for assistant city manager, city spokesperson Meg Olberding confirmed in an email to CityBeat. Whether he does is entirely up to the interim city manager, Olberding wrote.The possibility could draw criticism from city officials looking to balance Cincinnati’s structurally imbalanced operating budget. Last year, City Council drew opposition for its decision to hire Streetcar Project Executive John Deatrick and allow him to double dip on his pension and a city salary.Update: Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld said on Twitter that City Council will discuss the personnel changes at Wednesday’s full council meeting, instead of a special session on Thursday as originally planned.Moller will eventually replace Assistant City Manager David Holmes, who helped oversee efforts for The Banks and 2012 World Choir Games and filed to retire on April 1, Interim City Manager Scott Stiles wrote in a memo to City Council and the mayor.“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,” Stiles wrote, noting Moller’s budget and finance experience in Cincinnati, Hamilton and Covington.City Solicitor John Curp will also leave his current position to instead act as chief counsel for the city’s two utilities, the Metropolitan Sewer District and Water Works.“The utility has been undergoing a merger of back office functions to save ratepayers money, and also has been expanding services and service areas to decrease costs,” Stiles wrote. “John (Curp) has the private sector experience to assist the utilities with a market-oriented approach, and is uniquely positioned to understand both the particulars of MSD and GCWW as well as the areas in which they can expand.”The move should save ratepayers money by allowing both utilities to rely on Curp instead of outside legal counsel when legal issues arise, according to Stiles.Although widely praised by city officials, Curp’s move is unsurprising given the politics surrounding Mayor John Cranley’s election. Curp offered legal guidance for the parking privatization plan and streetcar project, both of which Cranley opposes.Terrence Nestor, currently the city’s chief litigator, will replace Curp as city solicitor until a permanent appointment is made.Stiles announced other changes as well:• Markiea Carter, currently a development officer, will move to the city manager’s office to act as assistant to the city manager.• Karen Alder, currently risk manager for the city, will begin assisting Finance Director Reginald Zeno as the city’s deputy finance director.Stiles is currently filling as interim city manager while the city conducts a nationwide search for a permanent replacement to former City Manager Milton Dohoney. Stiles could apply for the permanent role, but his application would need City Council support to win out over other potential candidates.The city expects the city manager search to last through June, at which point further administrative changes could be expected if the city hires a new permanent city manager.
 
 
by German Lopez 01.10.2014
Posted In: News, Pensions, Human trafficking, Budget, Prisons at 10:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

City looks at railroad sale, sex trafficking mapped, youth prisons combat sexual assault

Councilman Charlie Winburn, City Council’s new budget and finance chair, suggested selling the Cincinnati Southern Railroad to help pay for the city’s $870 million unfunded pension liability. But other city officials, including Mayor John Cranley, Councilman Chris Seelbach and Councilwoman Amy Murray, voiced doubts about the idea, saying it would cost the city annual revenue when there are other options for fixing the pension problem. Meanwhile, the city and state’s retirement boards appear to be looking into what it would take to merge Cincinnati’s pension system into the state system, although that solution could face political and legal hurdles. A new report from The Imagine Foundation found sex trafficking in the Cincinnati area follows the region’s spine on I-75 from Florency, Ky., to Sharonville, I-275 through Springfield and Fairfield and I-74 to Batesville, Ind. “This is real,” foundation Executive Director Jesse Bach told The Cincinnati Enquirer. “There are women and girls who are being bought and sold for sex in the Cincinnati area. The average person needs to take responsibility for what they might see. To use a sports adage, the average citizen has to be willing to say, ‘Not in our house.’ ” Gov. John Kasich and other state officials yesterday launched a public awareness campaign to combat human trafficking in Ohio at HumanTrafficking.Ohio.gov. “We may not want to admit it — it’s almost too horrific to imagine — but the fact is that human trafficking is real and is happening across Ohio. Over the past two years we’ve improved our laws to fight trafficking and begin getting victims the help they need, but we must do more,” Kasich said in a statement.In light of the public awareness campaign, some activists say human trafficking should be addressed by going after the source of demand: men.The head of the Ohio Department of Youth Services told a federal panel that his agency responded quickly and aggressively to reports of high sexual assault rates at the state’s juvenile-detention facilities. A June report found three of Ohio’s facilities had sexual assault rates of 19 percent or above, with the Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility estimated at 30.3 percent — the second highest rate in the nation. Since the report, the agency increased training, hired a full-time employee devoted to the Prison Rape Elimination Act and installed a tip line for prisoners, their families and staffers, according to Director Harvey Reed.A northern Kentucky man was the first flu death of the season, prompting some tips from the Northern Kentucky Health Department.Some national Democrats see Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld as a potential congressional candidate in 2022, assuming the next round of redistricting makes the First Congressional District more competitive for Democrats. The district used to be fairly moderate, but state Republicans redrew it to include Republican stronghold Warren County in the last round of redistricting.Billions of health-care dollars helped sustain Cincinnati’s economy during the latest economic downturn, a new study found.Downtown traffic came to a crawl this morning after burst pipes sent water gushing out of the former Terrace Plaza Hotel. The U.S. economy added a measly 74,000 jobs in December in a particularly weak end to 2013. Dayton Daily News: “Five things you need to know about butt selfies.”If the law catches up, robot ships could soon become reality.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
 
 

Ohio’s Latest Abortion Restrictions Follow Nationwide Trend

0 Comments · Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Ohio was among various states in the nation that passed more abortion restrictions between 2011 and 2013 than the entire previous decade.  

State Cuts Contribute to Local Budget Gap

0 Comments · Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Cincinnati might not be facing an operating budget gap in 2015 if it were not for Republican-approved cuts to state aid for local governments.  

Bengals Loss Reminds of County’s Terrible Stadium Deal

3 Comments · Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Voters saddled Hamilton County with debt just to watch the Cincinnati Bengals lose year after year in a publicly funded stadium.  
by German Lopez 01.08.2014
Posted In: News, Budget, 2014 election, Courts, Economy, Governor at 10:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

Judge halts election law, unemployment benefits advance, city loses budget director

A federal judge halted a controversial election law that limited minor political parties’ access to the ballot and ruled that the state must allow minor parties to participate in the primary and general elections in 2014. But by merely agreeing that only the retroactive restrictions for 2014 are too burdensome for minor parties, the judge left room to keep the law intact for elections in 2015 and beyond. Still, the ruling comes as a major victory for the Libertarian Party of Ohio and other minor parties who took to calling the Republican-backed law the “John Kasich Re-election Protection Act” because it conveniently limited minor parties that are upset with Republican Gov. John Kasich’s support for the Obamacare-funded Medicaid expansion.Ohio Sen. Rob Portman broke with most of his fellow Republicans yesterday to help advance federal legislation that would extend emergency benefits for the long-term unemployed. Still, he hinted that he would not support the three-month extension if the $6.4 billion cost isn’t covered by federal spending cuts elsewhere. Without the extension, 128,600 Ohioans could lose unemployment benefits through 2014 even as the state economy shows signs of weakening. Cincinnati Budget Director Lea Eriksen yesterday confirmed she is leaving her high-level city job to take the same job in Long Beach, Calif. Peggy Sandman will fill in for Eriksen while a search for a permanent replacement is held. Eriksen’s announcement comes as a blow to the city but little surprise to political watchers. Shortly before taking office, Mayor John Cranley called Eriksen and other administration officials “incompetent” because of how they handled the $132.8 million streetcar project, even though their estimates for cancellation costs turned out to be mostly on point.Newsflash: Global warming didn’t stop just because we’re cold now.The worst of the deep freeze should be over for Ohio.Cincinnati’s 2013 homicide rate of 25 per 100,000 residents compares to Cleveland at 22, Indianapolis at 14.85, Columbus at 11.24 and Louisville at 8.43.An Ohio appeals court ruled Cincinnati can change medical benefits for retirees after all.Construction for the uptown interchange could begin in July and finish in late 2016.The city announced yesterday that it’s extending its Winter Holiday Trash Amnesty through Jan. 17, which means residents have until then to set out extra trash next to their city-provided trash carts. Gov. Kasich is asking parents to tell their children about the dangers of drug abuse, as the state works to combat problems with prescription painkillers and heroin.A Fairfield, Ohio, teacher who was fired for allegedly telling a black student, “We don’t need another black president,” will fight for his job.Dozens of inmates at the Lebanon Correctional Honor Camp endured frigid conditions Monday evening after one of three furnaces broke, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.A Cincinnati-area medical device firm is in a race with some of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world to get a painless drug injector on the market.People are stealing English ferrets used to hunt rabbits.A survey of brown dwarfs found they’re racked by planet-sized storms of molten iron.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
 
 
by German Lopez 01.07.2014
 
 
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Morning News and Stuff

State cuts hit local budget, police explain homicides, Democratic primary heats up

If it were not for Republican-approved cuts to state aid for local governments, Cincinnati might not face an operating budget gap in 2015. The city has lost roughly $26 million in annual state aid since 2010, according to city officials, while the budget gap for 2015 is estimated at nearly $21 million. The reduction in state aid helps explain why Cincinnati continues dealing with budget gaps after years of council-approved spending cuts and tax hikes. Still, some council members argue Democratic council members should stop blaming Republican Gov. John Kasich and the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature for the city's problems and face the reality of reduced revenues.Heads of the Cincinnati Police Department yesterday explained the local increase in homicides to City Council's Law and Public Safety Committee. Police officials said gang-related activity, particularly activity related to the Mexican drug cartel that controls the heroin trade, is to blame for the spike in crime in Over-the-Rhine, downtown and the west side of Cincinnati. In particular, it appears disruptions in criminal organizations and their territories led to turf wars and other violent acts. Police also cautioned, "Most of the homicides are personal crimes between two known victims. Very rarely are they random in nature."The Democratic primary election for governor heated up yesterday after Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune called Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald's commitment to blacks "appalling" in an email obtained by The Cincinnati Enquirer. Prominent Democrats at the state and local level responded to the criticisms as more evidence Portune shouldn't continue to run and threaten Democrats' chances of a clean gubernatorial campaign. Portune announced his intention to run last week, despite calls from top Democrats to stay out of the race. Cold weather led many area schools to close for another day. For developing weather information, follow #cincywx on Twitter.The weather also slowed down streetcar construction.Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld: "Five Lessons From Cincinnati's Little Engine That Could."The Cincinnati Board of Education chose its veteran members to head the school board in 2014.Cincinnati-based Citigroup, Procter & Gamble, General Electric, Humana and U.S. Bank gained perfect scores in the Human Rights Campaign's index for gay-friendly companies.About 34 percent of Ohio third-graders could be held back if they do not improve their scores on the state's reading assessments. The chairs of the Ohio House and Senate's education committees argue the aggressive approach is necessary to improve the state's education outcomes. But the National Association of School Psychologists found grade retention has "deleterious long-term effects" both academically and socially.Kentucky is spending $32 million for substance abuse treatment to tackle the heroin epidemic.Ohio Democrats named a new executive director for the state party: Liz Walters. The Silver Lake, Ohio, native began her political career with the Girl Scouts when she worked for the organization as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C.Typically allies on other issues, liberals and the scientific community disagree on genetically modified crops.A pill normally taken as a mood stabilizer could help people acquire perfect pitch.Follow CityBeat on Twitter:• Main: @CityBeatCincy • News: @CityBeat_News • Music: @CityBeatMusic • German Lopez: @germanrlopez
 
 
by German Lopez 01.06.2014
Posted In: News, City Council, Budget, Governor, State Legislature at 03:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

State Cuts Contribute to Local Budget Gap

Republican state officials slashed local government funding in previous budgets

Cincinnati might not be facing an operating budget gap in 2015 if it were not for Republican-approved cuts to state aid for local governments.Following cuts approved by Republican Gov. John Kasich and the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature, Cincinnati officials estimate the city is getting $26 million less in state funding in 2015 than the city did in 2010. At the same time, the city is facing a $21 million operating budget gap in 2015. The reduction in state aid helps explain why the local budget gap remains after several years of council-approved spending cuts and tax hikes. “It sounds like the city is doing a good job,” said Democratic Councilman Chris Seelbach at Monday’s Budget and Finance Committee meeting. “Where we’re seeing these obstacles is these outside sources.” Independent Councilman Christopher Smitherman countered that the cuts to the local government fund and the elimination of the estate tax, both of which drove the reduction in state aid, have been known since 2011 and 2012. “Public policy makers have, in my opinion, continued to make decisions as if those public policy decisions from the governor’s chair or from the state … weren’t in play,” Smitherman said. “This is not new information.” Republican Councilman Charlie Winburn agreed. He said it’s time to stop blaming the governor for the city’s problems and face the reality of reduced revenues.Still, Winburn acknowledged he would be willing to meet with state officials to bring more revenue back to Cincinnati.“Maybe Republicans will be willing to meet with a Republican like me and see if we can bring some money back to Cincinnati,” Winburn said. Republicans at the state level passed cuts to the local government fund as a way to balance the 2012-2013 budget, which faced a projected gap of nearly $8 billion in 2011. They then approved the elimination of the estate tax — often labeled the “death tax” by opponents — in 2012. But with Ohio’s economy slowly recovering from the Great Recession, the state budget looks to be in much better shape. The 2012-2013 budget ended with a $2 billion surplus because of higher-than-expected revenues. Ohio Democrats point to the surplus as evidence the Republican-controlled state government could undo the $1 billion in cuts to local government funding. They argue the cuts have hurt local governments and forced cities to slash basic services, including public safety.
 
 

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