0 Comments · Wednesday, February 6, 2013
Gov. John Kasich’s 2014-15 budget
contains a few surprises for progressives — some pleasant, some not —
including a proposal to take up the Affordable Care Act’s incentive to
by German Lopez
102 days ago
Petition against privatization, Kasich sales tax hurts many, USquare development criticized
Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld is circulating a small
business petition to stop Cincinnati from privatizing parking services.
Sittenfeld threw his support behind the petition in a statement:
“Individual citizens have made clear that they are overwhelmingly
against outsourcing our parking system. Now we're going to show that
small businesses feel the same way. I hope that when council sees that
the small businesses that are the engine of our city are strongly
against outsourcing our parking, we can then nix the proposal
immediately.” The petition asks city officials “to find a smart,
resourceful, sustainable alternative to address the budget situation.”
City Manager Milton Dohoney says parking privatization is necessary to avoid laying off 344 city workers.
Gov. John Kasich’s expanded sales tax is going to hurt a lot of people.
The tax is being expanded to apply to many items included in households’ monthly budgets, such as cable television, laundry services and
haircuts. The revenue from the sales tax expansion will be used to cut
the state income tax by 20 percent across the board, lower the sales tax
from 5.5 percent to 5 percent and slightly boost county coffers.
City Council and local residents are not impressed
with the USquare development. At a City Council meeting Tuesday, Vice
Mayor Roxanne Qualls described the development: “I have to say that it
is underwhelming. And that’s about the kindest thing I can say about it.
And also really repeats, on many different levels, virtually all of
the mistakes that have ever been made in the city and in neighborhoods
when it comes to creating public spaces.” But architect Graham Kalbli
said he’s excited about the plan: “Because we’ve taken a vacant strip of
land and really made kind of a living room for the Clifton Heights
community. We wanted to do that, that was one of our overriding goals.”
The Hamilton County Board of Elections is subpoenaing
19 voters who are suspected of voting twice in the November election.
Most of the voters being investigated filed provisional ballots then
showed up to vote on Election Day.
David Mann is officially running for City Council. The Democrat has served as a council member, mayor and congressman in the past.
Traffic congestion isn’t just bad for drivers; it’s also
bad for the environment and economy. The Annual Urban Mobility Report
from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute found
traffic congestion cost Cincinnati $947 million in 2011 and produced
an an extra 56 billion pounds of carbon dioxide nationwide.
Leslie Ghiz is taking the judge’s seat a little early.
The former city council member was elected to the Hamilton County
Common Pleas Court in November, but she was appointed to the seat early by Gov. John Kasich to replace Dennis Helmick, who
retired at the end of 2012.
The magic of capitalism: Delta is already matching a low-cost carrier’s fares to Denver at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.
The U.S. Postal Service is ending Saturday mail delivery
starting Aug. 1. The Postal Service has been dealing with financial
problems ever since a 2006 mandate from U.S. Congress forced the mail
delivery agency to pre-fund health care benefits for future retirees.
Riddled with gridlock, Congress has done nothing to help since the
mandate was put in place. This will be the first time the Postal Service
doesn’t deliver mail on Saturdays since 1863.
It’s unlikely zombies could be cured by love, but it’s possible they could be cured by science.
The next Michael Jordan has been discovered:
by German Lopez
104 days ago
Governor proposes health care expansion despite opposing Obamacare
Gov. John Kasich released his 2014-2015 budget plan today, and it
has a few surprises — some pleasant, some not — for progressives. Despite his vocal opposition to Obamacare, Kasich
will be taking up the federal law’s incentive to expand Medicaid, the health care program for low-income families. But instead of taking back past cuts to social services, education and local governments, the governor is pushing ahead with income and sales tax cuts.
The Medicaid expansion would add more Ohioans to the state-federal health care program by raising the eligibility threshold to 138 percent of the
federal poverty level, up from 90 percent. The budget summary claims the expansion
makes financial sense for the state as long as the federal government picks up most of the tab. As part of Obamacare, the federal government takes all the
costs for newly insured Medicaid recipients for the first three years. After
that, the federal government’s share is brought down to 95 percent and ultimately phased down to 90 percent. If the federal
government reneges on its promise to pay for the bulk of the share,
Kasich’s budget has a trigger to wind down the Medicaid expansion.
The budget also proposes income and sales tax cuts, which would come with some trade-offs. The state
income tax would be brought down by 20 percent across the board, and
the sales tax would be cut from 5.5 percent to 5 percent. To balance the
cuts, Kasich has proposed broadening the sales tax to include other
“economic activity,” while keeping exemptions for education, health
care, rent and residential utilities.
In another slew of tax changes, Kasich’s plan proposes
revamping the oil and gas severance tax. It would eliminate the tax for
“small, conventional natural gas producers,” but imposes a 4 percent tax for
bigger oil and gas producers.
In the past, liberals have voiced opposition to tax cuts — instead favoring investments elsewhere. Policy Matters Ohio released its own budget proposals
Jan. 31, which emphasized “education, health care and human services.”
The plan would also increase the income tax for top earners.
City Council Member P.G. Sittenfeld released a statement
criticizing Kasich’s budget for not using the extra revenue to scale
back local government and education cuts enacted in the 2012-2013
budget: “At a time when local governments around the state are being
forced to slash basic services, lay off safety personnel, raise taxes,
and sell off assets just to stay afloat, it's out of touch for Gov.
Kasich not to reverse his raid on our local government fund. We don’t
pay taxes to pad the governor’s soundbites, we pay them to maintain our
roads and keep cops on the street. This should not be a partisan issue.
It's simply illogical governance to make the state look good while in
the process hurting Ohio's cities.”
The budget proposal also includes Kasich’s Ohio Turnpike plan and education reform plan.
by German Lopez
109 days ago
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
124 days ago
State budget will reform taxes, Monzel takes charge of county, freestanding restroom vote
Gov. John Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget plan is on the horizon, and it contains “sweeping tax reform,”
according to Tim Keen, budget director for Kasich. Keen said the new
plan will “result in a significant competitive improvement in our tax
structure,” but it’s not sure how large tax cuts would be paid for. Some
are already calling the plan the “re-election budget.” Expectations are Kasich’s administration will cut less than the previous budget, which greatly cut funding to local governments and education.
Chris Monzel is now in charge
of the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners. Monzel will serve as
president, while former president Greg Hartmann has stepped down to vice
president. Monzel says public safety will be his No. 1 concern.City Council may vote today on a plan to build the first freestanding public restroom, and it may be coming at a lower cost.
City Manager Milton Dohoney said last week that the restroom could cost
$130,000 with $90,000 going to the actual restroom facility, but
Councilman Seelbach says the city might be able to secure the facility
for about $40,000.
Tomorrow, county commissioners may vote on policy
regarding the Metropolitan Sewer District. Commissioners have been
looking into ending a responsible bidder policy, which they say is bad
for businesses. But Councilman Seelbach argues the policy ensures
job training is part of multi-billion dollar sewer programs. Board President Monzel and
Seelbach are working on a compromise the city and county can agree on.
The Hamilton County Board of Elections is prepared to refer five cases of potential voter fraud from the Nov. 6 election. The board is also investigating about two dozen more voters’ actions for potential criminal charges.
King’s Island is taking job applications for 4,000 full- and part-time positions.
Ohio may soon link teacher pay to quality.
Gov. John Kasich says his funding plan for schools will “empower,” not
require, schools to attach teacher compensation to student success. A previous study suggested the scheme, also known as “merit pay,” might be a good idea.
An economist says Ohio’s home sales will soon be soaring.
Debe Terhar will continue as the Board of Education president, with Tom Gunlock staying as vice president.
Equal rights for women everywhere could save the world,
say two Stanford biologists. Apparently, giving women more rights makes
it so they have less children, which biologists Paul R. and Anne
Ehrlich say will stop humanity from overpopulating the world.
Ever wanted to eat like a caveman? I’m sure someone out there does. Well, here is how.
by German Lopez
Qualls to push for federal gun regulations, UC to renovate Nippert, company rigs bid process
Metal detectors could come back
to City Hall, but local legislators can’t do much more regarding local
gun control. Still, Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls and other City Council
members will begin pushing for more federal regulations on guns starting
today. President Barack Obama is already beginning to drum up
support for more regulations on guns, including a ban on assault
weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips. He also wants to close a
loophole that allows people to buy firearms at gun shows without
background checks. At the state level, a new bill loosening gun regulations in Ohio is facing criticism.
The bill will make it easier to store firearms in cars and allows them for
the first time in parking garages under the Ohio Statehouse and a nearby
office tower. Gov. John Kasich said he will sign the bill.The University of Cincinnati is launching
a fundraising effort for the renovation of Nippert Stadium. The project
could cost as much as $70 million. The university wants to offset as
much of the cost as possible to build premium seating, with the
possibility of 28 new luxury boxes and more than 1,400 premium seats
being added. Goals could change based on demand and fundraising efforts.A Cincinnati-based company and its top executive have pleaded guilty to circumventing Ohio’s competitive bid process. The actions cost Ohio taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars,
according to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. The company circumvented
the competitive process by submitting multiple bids on road jobs under
different names, creating the illusion of competition. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a possible candidate for the presidency in 2016, will headline
a Hamilton County GOP event. He will be a featured speaker next month
at the Northeast Hamilton County Republican Club's annual pancake
breakfast.The Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy failed to follow its own compensation policies, resulting in improper over-payments of $2,325, according to Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost.Top state officials will begin pushing and outlining school safety efforts in the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. State Impact Ohio has a fantastic infographic showing the growth of charter schools in Ohio. In the Cincinnati urban district, charter schools now host 6,642 students.A new state policy will automatically refund businesses when they’ve overpaid their taxes. The first round of the policy will refund businesses in Ohio $13 million.The animal takeover continues. Due to the effects of climate change, some animals are moving into cities. On the bright side, animals can be pretty cute. Here is a dog flipping over its food, and here are cats locked in deadly combat against a printer.
by German Lopez
Parking privatization deal reached, rape flier case could be unsealed, casino revenue drops
The city of Cincinnati and its largest city employees union have reached a deal
regarding the privatization of the city’s parking assets. Under the
deal’s terms, the city will give raises and not lay off anyone for three
years, but only if the city’s parking assets are privatized. However,
the head of a Clifton community group is still not happy with the privatization plan. He says the plan is bad for business because it limits the amount of affordable parking in the area. But would laying off 344 city employees be better for business?
The identity of the Miami University student who put up
the infamous “Top Ten Ways to Get Away with Rape” flier may soon be revealed. The Ohio Supreme Court
will decide by Dec. 14 whether the case should be unsealed and open to public view. Robert Lyons, the Butler County part-time judge who sealed the case, has faced scrutiny in the past few months for conflicts of interest regarding drinking-and-driving cases.
Revenue from casinos in Toledo and Cleveland is dropping. The numbers paint a bad picture for Cincinnati and Hamilton County officials expecting budget problems to be solved by casino revenue.
A proposal mandating drug testing for welfare recipients in Ohio resurfaced last week. Republican legislators claim the requirement will save the state money, but a similar proposal in Florida added to budget woes as the state was forced to pay for drug tests.
Ohio’s ultra-wealthy population is growing.
About 1,330 Ohioans are worth $30 million or more, an increase of 2
percent since 2011, according to a report from Wealth-X. The news could
shape Gov. John Kasich’s plan to cut the income tax using revenue from a
higher oil-and-gas severance tax, perhaps encouraging state officials to make
the cut more progressive.
Gov. Kasich is ending the practice
of giving so many tax credits to keep businesses in Ohio. The move could
potentially cost the state jobs as businesses move to other areas with
bigger, better incentives, but state officials and the business community don’t seem too worried for now.
If the Ohio government agencies were forced to cut their budgets by 10 percent, the results would not be pretty. The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction
would have to close prisons, and the Ohio Department of Natural
Resources would have a tougher time enforcing new regulations on
Ohio’s exotic animal law is facing a challenge in federal court
today. Exotic animal owners claim the law violates their First
Amendment and property rights by forcing them to join private
associations and give up their animals without compensation. They also
do not like the provision that requires microchips be implanted into the
animals. The Humane Society of the United States is defending the law,
which was passed after a man released 56 exotic animals and killed himself in 2011.
An Ohio court said a business tax on fuel sales must be used on road projects.
Ohio gas prices are still dropping.
The cure for leukemia could be a modified version of the AIDS virus.
by German Lopez
Redistricting deal in works, pro-Obama group fights locally, commissioners raise taxes
Redistricting reform may have died in front of voters, but
will the state legislature pick up the pieces? Ohio Sen. Keith Faber, a
Republican, and Ohio Sen. Nina Turner, a Democrat, say a deal is close.
The senators say the task force in charge of finding a way to reform
the state’s redistricting system could release a report later this week,
and a public hearing is scheduled for next week. The congressional
redistricting process has scrutiny for decades as
politicians have redrawn districts for political gain. The First
Congressional District, which includes Cincinnati, was redrawn during
the Republican-controlled process to include Republican-leaning Warren
County. The change was enough to dilute Cincinnati’s Democratic-leaning
urban core, shifting the district from politically mixed to safely
A group in favor of President Barack Obama is taking the federal fight over taxes to a local level.
Ohio Action Now is planning a Friday rally in front of U.S. Rep. Steve
Chabot’s office demanding that he accept tax hikes on individuals making
more than $250,000. Chabot, who represents Cincinnati’s congressional
district, and other Republicans oppose the plan because it taxes what
they like to call “job creators.” However, research has shown taxing the
wealthy is economically better than taxing the lower and middle classes. The International Monetary Fund also found in an extensive study
that spending cuts hurt economies a lot, but tax hikes barely make a negative
impact. U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, is also criticizing Republicans for not accepting Obama’s tax proposal.
Hamilton County commissioners did not agree to raise the sales tax; instead, they will reduce the property tax rollback.
For residential property owners, the tax hike adds $35 per $100,000 of a
home’s valuation. Commissioners say either a reduction in the rollback
or a sales tax hike is necessary to balance the county stadium fund,
which has undergone problems ever since the county made a bad deal with the
Reds and Bengals. None of the current commissioners were in office when
the original stadium deal was made.
The city of Cincinnati and a city union have reached a deal
on privatizing parking services. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees
(AFSCME) agreed not to oppose the plan after the city promised
not to lay off union employees. As part of parking privatization, 25
union members will lose their current jobs, but they’ll be transitioned
into other city jobs. City Manager Milton Dohoney insists parking
privatization is necessary in his budget plan if the city wants to avoid
The public will be able to weigh in on the budget proposal today at 6
p.m. at City Hall and Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. at Corryville Recreation
Cincinnati City Council approved a resolution asking the state government for local control of fracking operations.
But the resolution has no legal weight, so the state will
retain control. Fracking has been criticized by environmentalists who
see it as a possible cause of air pollution and water contamination.
Critics also want to know what’s in the chemicals used during the fracking process, but,
under state law, companies are not forced to fully disclose such
Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear will meet Dec. 12 in Covington to discuss a study funding the Brent Spence Bridge overhaul.
Some, including Greater Cincinnati’s Port Authority, have pushed for
tolls to help fund the bridge project, but northern Kentucky lawmakers
are strongly against the idea. The bridge, which links downtown
Cincinnati and Covington, has been under heavy scrutiny due to
deteriorating conditions and over-capacity.
The city of Cincinnati and web-based SoMoLend are partnering
to provide crowd funding to the city’s small businesses and startups.
The partnership, which was approved by the Small Business Advisory
Committee, is meant to encourage job and economic growth.
The Ohio Senate will rework
a bill that revamps the school report card system. The bill seeks to
enforce tougher standards on schools to put more pressure on
improvement, but some Democrats have voiced concerns the new standards
are too tough as the state replaces old standardized tests. A very early simulation from May showed Cincinnati Public Schools dropping
from the second-best rating of “Effective” under the current system to a
D-, with 23 schools flunking and Walnut Hills High School retaining its
top mark with an A.
The Ohio House passed
a bill banning Internet sweepstakes cafes, but it’s unsure whether the
Ohio Senate will follow suit. State officials say the cafes are ripe for
More Ohioans are seeking help for gambling problems.
A bill seeking to curb duplicate lawsuits over on-the-job asbestos exposure has cleared
the Ohio Senate. Proponents say the bill stops double-dipping from
victims, but opponents say it will make legitimate claims all the more
The Ohio Supreme Court declared the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) to be in contempt
for not following a court order requiring the state agency to
compensate 87 landowners in Mercer County for flood damage. As a result,
ODNR must complete appraisals within 90 days and file all appropriation
cases within 120 days.
We’re all going to die... eventually. Someday, the Milky Way will collide with the Andromeda Galaxy, and scientists want help in finding out more about the galaxy.
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 5, 2012
The Hamilton County Board of Commissioners held a public meeting Dec. 3 to discuss options for balancing the stadium fund.
by Bill Sloat
Tax data shows Republican states more likely to pay less taxes
Well, surprise. Most of the Americans who don’t pay federal income taxes live in states that polls show are locked in for Mitt Romney. They are down South. Or out in the Southwest, according to Tax Foundation data.Mississippi has the most filers with no income tax liability. It has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1980. When Obama was on the ballot there in 2008, he only got 43 percent of the popular vote. Yet 45 percent of Mississippi tax filers pay nothing. That tidbit certainly rips a hole in Romney’s contention that Obama voters don’t pay income taxes — Republican voters appear to be skating as well, and obviously in far larger numbers than Romney suggests.Our neighbors in Kentucky — who voted early 60 percent GOP over the past three presidential elections — are pretty good at not paying income taxes too. Fewer send checks to the IRS than in West Virginia. Alaska is the outlier — it votes Republican and just 21 percent of its filers don’t pay income taxes to Uncle Sam. You betcha, the vast majority of Alaskans do send money to the IRS. Perhaps they write their checks while looking at Russia from their porches.If you are wondering about Ohio, the state had 5.56 million tax filers. Of that number, some 68 percent paid federal income taxes. We’re a swing state that backed Obama in 2008. Clearly, not all the payers were Republicans.Here is a map with all the data:
The Tax Foundation, a group based in Washington, D.C. that calls itself a nonpartisan research group, produced its state-by-state ranking of non-filers in May 24, 2010. It has been available on the Internet for more than two years, which means it was available long before Romney said Obama’s supporters don’t pay taxes. This insight gets right to the heart of the matter:“Nine of the 10 states with the largest percentage of non-payers are in the South and Southwest. In Mississippi, 45 percent of federal tax returns remit nothing or receive money with their federal tax returns; that is the highest percentage nationally. Georgia is next at 41 percent, followed by Arkansas at 41 percent, and Alabama, South Carolina and New Mexico at 40 percent. All of the top 10 ranking states have among the lowest median family incomes in the country.”