by German Lopez
City debt outlook worsens, Port apologizes for email about parking memo, fracking tax fails
It may become more expensive for the city to issue debt after Moody’s downgraded the city’s bond rating.
The credit rating agency pinned the blame on the city’s exposure to
local and state retirement systems, as well as the city’s reliance since
2001 on one-time sources to balance the operating budget. Still,
Moody’s does give the city some credit for its economically diverse
population and recently stabilized earnings tax, despite docking the city for bad socioeconomic indicators, particularly resident income levels and historical unemployment rates.
The Greater Cincinnati Port Authority’s CEO Laura Brunner is apologizing to the public and council members
following the exposure of an email that implied she was trying to keep a
critical parking memo away from public sight. Brunner says she was just trying
to buy time so she could directly show the memo to the Port Authority’s
board before it was reported by news outlets, but she acknowledges that
her email was ill-conceived and came off as an attempt to stifle
transparency. The memo suggests Cincinnati is getting a bad deal from its parking lease agreement with the Port Authority and several private operators, but the Port Authority and city officials argue the memo is outdated and full of technical errors.
The Cincinnati Enquirer has a report detailing political contributions from oil and gas companies
that may have helped bring down a state “fracking tax,” which was supposed to
raise state revenue from Ohio’s ongoing oil and gas boom. Apparently,
many of the Republican legislators who staunchly opposed the oil and gas
severance tax also took in a lot of money from the same companies who
would have to pay up. The tax proposal was effectively dead on arrival,
even with the hyperbolic support of Republican Gov. John Kasich. Fracking is an
extraction technique that pumps millions of gallons of water underground
to free up oil and gas. CityBeat covered its effects on Ohio in further detail here.
Water utility leaders are meeting in Cincinnati this week to discuss sustainable business models.
In Cincinnati, water usage has dropped while expenses to treat water
and waste water have escalated, causing the Metropolitan Sewer District
to take in less money. The conference will discuss models that can
adjust around this trend while keeping rates low for customers.
The owners of The Hanke Exchange, a collection of buildings in Over-the-Rhine, say occupancy is going up
as a result of the promise of the Cincinnati streetcar. The property is
now at 84 percent occupancy rate, up from 28 percent three years ago.
Dayton and Cincinnati will hold rallies Saturday showing support for Trayvon Martin,
the unarmed black 17-year-old who was killed by George Zimmerman last
year. Zimmerman was acquitted of murder by a jury last Saturday.
Richard Cordray, the former Ohio attorney general, was confirmed to direct the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the top agency that will regulate the financial institutions that played a role in causing the Great Recession.
The Hamilton County Young Democrats are hosting a free event
today to meet Democratic State Sen. Nina Turner, who’s also running for
secretary of state next year against Republican incumbent Jon Husted.
If the sun suddenly went out, humanity could take a few weeks to die out and perhaps live in Iceland.
by German Lopez
Bridge project to use tolling, governor prepares budget victory lap, casino revenue down
Ohio and Kentucky officials will roll out a plan in September to pay for the Brent Spence Bridge project with tolling
— a decision that could lead to opposition from Northern Kentucky
officials who have long advised against using tolls to finance the $2.5
billion project. The funding choice comes as little surprise,
given the lack of major federal support for the interstate bridge project. But tolling could put the plan in
danger if the Kentucky legislature follows the lead of its Northern
Kentucky delegation. The announcement follows a December agreement between Ohio and Kentucky’s governors to get the project done.
Gov. John Kasich will be using a month-long tour to show off the new two-year state budget.
The schedule for the tour is still being worked out, but at least one
stop in southwest Ohio is expected. The $62 billion budget has many
moving parts, but a CityBeat analysis found the plan disproportionately favors the wealthy and limits access to legal abortions and contraceptive care in Ohio.
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino posted its worst monthly revenue gains
since its grand opening in March. It was an equally poor month for the
rest of the state, which saw the worst casino revenue gains since Cincinnati’s
casino opened. If the trend holds up, that could be a troubling sign
for proponents of using casino revenue to balance local and state
A prominent Ohio Republican and former Kasich cabinet member says he supports overturning the state’s ban on same-sex marriage,
giving a bipartisan jolt to FreedomOhio’s efforts to get the issue on
the ballot in 2014. Jim Petro, former attorney general and previous head
of the state’s higher education board, has a daughter who’s gay, which
may have influenced his decision. He was joined by Ian James, co-founder
of FreedomOhio, when announcing his support. CityBeat covered FreedomOhio’s same-sex marriage amendment when it was originally slated for the 2013 ballot here.
Cincinnati Gardens is for sale.
Kenko Corporation, which has owned the garden for 35 years, announced
its plans yesterday. “Our hope would be to sell, and see the historic
venue move forward in its current state: a sports and entertainment
venue,” explained Pete Robinson, president of the Cincinnati Gardens, in
a statement. “However, we are prepared to explore other opportunities.”
At least two county commissioners are expected to approve the Cincinnati Zoo’s levy request, which could put the flat renewal of the five-year levy on the ballot this November.
In other zoo news, here is Gladys the gorilla with her family.
As City Council winds down its sessions, Councilman Chris
Seelbach will keep busy and help other city employees pick up garbage
and clean sewers. Seelbach will be tweeting about his experiences in
a different kind of public service here.
Kroger led Cincinnati stocks to a big start
in July — a good sign for an ailing national economy that has struggled to get
back on its feet. The Cincinnati-based grocer also announced on Tuesday
that it will buy rival Harris Teeter Supermarkets Inc. in a $2.4 billion deal.
Here are some pictures of carnivorous plants in action.
State Republicans lower taxes for the rich, defund Planned Parenthood and try to block health care for the poor in Kasich-signed budget
1 Comment · Wednesday, July 3, 2013
With Gov. John Kasich’s signature,
Republican state officials on June 30 passed a budget that alters taxes,
schools, Medicaid and abortion services in Ohio, putting the state in a
controversial and politically charged path for the next two years.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 12:14 PM | Permalink
Top 1 percent to get $6,083 tax cut
released June 26 found Ohio’s top 1 percent would get the biggest breaks from
the tax plan included in the final version of the two-year state budget, while the
state’s poorest would pay more under the plan.The analysis, conducted by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy for public policy think tank Policy Matters Ohio, shows the tax plan’s slew of tax cuts and hikes balance out to disproportionately favor the wealthy in terms of dollars and percents.On average, the top 1 percent would see their taxes fall
by $6,083, or 0.7 percent, under the plan. The next 4 percent would pay
$983, or 0.5 percent, less in taxes.
Meanwhile, the bottom 20 percent would pay about $12, or
0.1 percent, more in taxes. The second-lowest 20 percent would see their
taxes go down by $5, rounded to 0 percent. The middle 20 percent would
see a tax cut of $9, which is also rounded to 0 percent.
Policy Matters criticizes the tax plan, claiming the revenue should go to other programs, not tax cuts.
“Rather than approving a tax plan that will further shift
Ohio’s tax load from the most affluent to low- and middle-income
residents, we should direct those dollars into needed public services,”
said Zach Schiller, Policy Matters Ohio research director, in a
statement. “That includes restoring support for local governments and
schools, and bolstering human services, from foodbanks to child care.”
Michael Dittoe, spokesperson for Ohio House Republicans,
says the tax plan is supposed to provide an economic boost to almost everyone,
not any specific group.
“The tax plan is going to provide an overall tax cut for
nearly all Ohioans,” he says. “What this plan intends to do is not
disproportionately favor the wealthy at all.”
The broad tax cuts, Republicans claim, should provide a boost to Ohio’s economy that will spur further job growth.
But Schiller argues the tax cut ultimately won’t create
jobs: “A 21-percent cut that was approved in 2005 has not kept Ohio’s
job market from underperforming that of the country as a whole during
and after the last recession.”The tax plan cuts income taxes for all Ohioans and
particularly business owners, but it balances the cuts by hiking sales and property taxes.
Specifically, the budget cuts income taxes for all Ohioans
by 10 percent over three years, gives business owners a 50-percent tax
break on up to $250,000 of annual net income and creates a small
earned income tax credit for low- and middle-income working Ohioans based on the federal credit.
To balance the cuts, the plan raises the sales tax from
5.5 percent to 5.75 percent, increases future property taxes by 12.5
percent and graduates the homestead tax exemption to be based on need,
meaning the lowest-income seniors, disabled and widowed Ohioans will get
the most out of the exemption in the future.
Most recently, the conference committee added two
safeguards for low-income Ohioans: a credit that wipes out income-tax
liability for Ohioans making $10,000 or less a year and another $20
credit for those making $30,000 or less a year.
The Policy Matters analysis doesn’t take into account the
two changes to property taxes and several other, smaller changes to
income and sales taxes, but the rest of the changes, including the conference
committee’s recent adjustments, are considered.
The tax plan is part of the $62 billion state budget for
fiscal years 2014 and 2015, which passed the Republican-controlled General Assembly today. It's expected Republican Gov. John Kasich will sign it into law this weekend.Update: Budget bill passed by General Assembly.Check out all of CityBeat’s state budget coverage:• State Budget's Education Increases Fall Short of Past Funding
• State Budget Rejects Medicaid Expansion• State Budget to Limit Access to Abortion
by German Lopez
Seelbach calls for Voting Rights Act rework, 3CDC upkeep criticized, politics in budget veto
Councilman Chris Seelbach and other local leaders are
calling on Congress to rework the Voting Rights Act following a U.S.
Supreme Court decision that struck down key provisions. Supporters of
the Voting Rights Act argue it’s necessary to prevent discrimination and
protect people’s right to vote, while critics call it an outdated
measure from the Jim Crow era that unfairly targeted some states with
forgone histories of racism. “Within 24 hours of the Supreme Court’s
decision to gut the Voting Rights Act, five states are already moving
ahead with voter ID laws, some of which had previously been rejected by
the Department of Justice as discriminatory,” Seelbach said in a
statement. “The right to vote is one of the most sacred values in our
nation and Congress should act immediately to protect it”.
Nonprofit developer 3CDC says it’s restructuring staff and guidelines to take better care of its vacant buildings
following criticisms from residents and the local Board of Housing
Appeals. The board has fined the 3CDC three times this year for failing
to maintain Cincinnati’s minimum standards for vacant buildings, which
require owners keep the buildings watertight and safe for emergency
personnel to enter.
Gov. John Kasich said the funding allocation belonged in
the capital budget — not the operating budget he signed into law — when
he vetoed money going to State Treasurer Josh Mandel’s office, but The Columbus Dispatch reports it might have been revenge
for Mandel’s opposition to the Medicaid expansion and an oil-and-gas
severance tax. Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols says the allegation is
“silly” and “absurd,” adding that Kasich said he would work with Mandel
on allocating the money during the capital budget process. The state
treasurer’s office says it needs the $10 million to upgrade computers
against cyberattacks. Mandel was one of the first state Republicans to
come out against the Medicaid expansion, which CityBeat covered here and here.
A series of mandatory across-the-board federal spending
cuts was supposed to take $66 million from Ohio schools, but state
officials say they’ll be able to soften the blow with $19 million in unspent federal aid.
The federal cuts — also known as “sequestration” — were part of a debt
deal package approved by Congress and President Barack Obama that kicked
in March 1. Prior to its implementation, Obama asked Congress to rework
sequestration to lessen its negative fiscal impact, but Republican
legislators refused. CityBeat covered some of sequestration’s other statewide effects here.
The mayoral race officially dropped down to four candidates yesterday, with self-identified Republican Stacy Smith failing to gather enough signatures to get on the ballot.
Check out the Cincinnati Zoo’s latest expansion here.
Headline from The Cincinnati Enquirer: “Where does John Cranley live?”
It’s now legal to go 70 miles per hour in some state highways.
Cincinnati-based Kroger and Macy’s came in at No. 2 and No. 14 respectively in an annual list of the nation’s top 20 retailers from STORIES magazine.
The Tribune Co. is buying Local TV LLC in Newport for $2.7 billion to become the largest TV station operator in the nation.
Human head transplants may be closer than we think (and perhaps hope).
by German Lopez
Governor signs budget, school funding falls short in long term, Medicaid expansion denied
Following approval from the Republican-controlled General
Assembly earlier in the week, Gov. John Kasich last night signed a $62
billion two-year state budget that makes sweeping changes to taxes
and takes numerous anti-abortion measures. On the tax front, Policy
Matters Ohio previously criticized the mix of income tax cuts and property and
sales tax hikes for favoring the wealthy.
Meanwhile, abortion-rights advocates say the budget will hurt women by
limiting access to abortion, while Republicans say they’re trying to protect the “sanctity of human life.”
The budget also makes changes to the school funding
formula that increases funding to schools by $700 million, but the
funding is still $515 million less than Ohio schools got in 2009.
Stephen Dyer, former Democratic state representative and education
policy fellow at left-leaning think tank Innovation Ohio, says
Republican legislators should have spent less time on tax reform and
more on education. Although Dyer acknowledges the final education plan is
more equitable than Kasich’s original proposal, he argues equity doesn’t matter much when schools are still underfunded.
One policy that didn’t make it into the final state
budget: the Medicaid expansion. Kasich strongly backed the expansion
throughout the budget process, but Republican concerns about federal
funding ultimately won out and kept the Medicaid expansion from the final version of the budget.
Col Owens, co-convener of the Southwest Ohio Medicaid Expansion
Coalition, says the expansion’s absence is irresponsible, but he’s optimistic
it will be passed in a stand-alone bill later on. Owens and other
supporters of the expansion argue it will help insure hundreds of
thousands of Ohioans and save the state money by placing more of the
funding burden on the federal government.
One beneficiary of the state budget: low-rated charter schools.
Democratic State Sen. Nina Turner today announced her
candidacy for Ohio secretary of state — a position she will attempt to
take from Republican Jon Husted. Turner is a vocal critic of
Republicans’ voting policies, which she says suppress voters,
particularly minorities and low-income Ohioans.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Friday released the first Human Trafficking Statistics Report,
which his office plans to release on an annual basis to continue
spotlighting Ohio’s trafficking problem. Law
enforcement identified 38 human trafficking victims in the last year,
but that’s only a fraction of the estimated thousands of Ohioans,
particularly youth and those “at risk,” who are reportedly trafficked
and abused each year.
The Cincinnati Park Board won the National/Facility Park Design Award for Smale Riverfront Park.
The award from the National Recreation and Park Association recognizes
the park’s design, the inclusiveness of the design process and how the
board met the local community’s needs for the park. This is just another
major national award for The Banks; earlier in the year, the project won the American Planning Association’s 2013 National Planning Excellence Award for Implementation.
Some Republicans are not taking last week’s U.S. Supreme
Court decision on same-sex marriage well: State Rep. John
Becker, a Republican from Clermont County, now says polygamy is inevitable.
Cincinnati is currently looking for a new police chief, and it already has 13 applications.
Ohio gas prices are down again this week.
Kasich says he’s not interested in running for president in 2016.
Apparently, the unmanned Voyager 1 spacecraft entered a scientifically funky region last summer.
Here is an explanation of what happens when stars collide.
by German Lopez
State tax plan favors wealthy, state budget limits abortion, mayoral primary incoming
The Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly yesterday
passed its state budget for the next two years, and Gov. John Kasich is
expected to sign the bill this weekend. Part of the budget is a tax plan
that would cut income taxes but raise sales and property taxes in a way
that Policy Matters Ohio, a left-leaning public policy think tank, says
would ultimately favor the state’s wealthiest.
On average, individuals in the top 1 percent would see their taxes fall by $6,083, or
0.7 percent, under the plan, while those in the bottom 20 percent would pay about
$12, or 0.1 percent, more in taxes, according to Policy Matters’
The state budget also includes several anti-abortion measures: less funding for Planned Parenthood, more funding for
anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers, regulations that could be used
by the state health director to shut down abortion clinics and a
requirement for doctors to do an external ultrasound on a woman seeking
an abortion and inform her whether a heartbeat is detected. Republicans claim they’re protecting the sanctity of
human life, while abortion rights advocates are labeling the measures
an attack on women’s rights.
Cincinnati will have a mayoral primary on Sept. 10.
Five candidates vying for the highest elected position in the city:
Democrats Roxanne Qualls and John Cranley, Libertarian Jim Berns,
self-identified Republican Stacy Smith and Sandra Queen Noble. Qualls
and Cranley are widely seen as the favorites, with each candidate
splitting on issues like the parking lease and streetcar. Qualls supports the policies, while Cranley opposes both. A recent poll from the Cranley campaign found the race deadlocked, with Cranley and Qualls both getting 40 percent of the vote and the rest of polled voters claiming they’re undecided.
Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords will appear at the Northside Fourth of July parade. Giffords will be in Cincinnati as part of a nationwide tour on gun violence.
Elmwood Place’s speed cameras are being confiscated by the Hamilton County Sheriff Department. Judge Robert Ruehlman originally told
operating company Optotraffic to turn the cameras off, but when the company
didn’t listen, the judge ruled the cameras should be confiscated.
The Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Council of Governments released its new bike map for southwest Ohio.
President Barack Obama signaled on Thursday that the federal government will extend marriage benefits to gay and lesbian couples in all states,
even those states that don’t allow same-sex marriage. That may mean a
gay couple in Ohio could get married in New York and Massachusetts and
still have their marriage counted at the federal level, but state
limitations would still remain. The administration’s plans follow a U.S.
Supreme Court ruling on Wednesday that struck down a federal ban on
The U.S. Senate on Thursday approved a bill to overhaul the nation’s immigration laws.
Ohio’s two senators were split on the bill: Democratic Sen. Sherrod
Brown voted for it, while Republican Sen. Rob Portman voted against it. A
Congressional Budget Office report previously found the bill would reduce the nation’s deficit and boost the economy over the next decade.
Scientists cloned a mouse with a mere blood sample.
CityBeat won a bunch of awards at Wednesday’s
Society of Professional Journalists Cincinnati chapter awards banquet
and hall of fame induction ceremony. Read about them here.
ACLU: Pay-to-stay policies harm low-income inmates, raise little money for county jails
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 26, 2013
The Hamilton County Jail charges its
inmates a fee for incarceration, and a new report from the American
Civil Liberties Union of Ohio (ACLU) suggests the practice harms
low-income inmates and raises little money for the county.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 07:13 PM | Permalink
Ohio ranks No. 3 for massive subsidy deals with corporations
is No. 3 in the nation for “megadeals” — massive government subsidies to
corporations that are meant to encourage in-state job creation — but a
new report found many of the deals rarely produce the kind of jobs initially
touted by public officials. In the Good Jobs First report
released on June 19, Ohio tied with Texas as No. 3 for megadeals,
which Good Jobs First defines as subsidies worth $75 million
or more. Michigan topped the list with 29 deals, followed by New York
with 23.In the Cincinnati area, local and state agencies agreed to pay $196.4 million to Convergys in 2003 and $121 million to General Electric in 2009 to keep and create jobs in the area. It’s
no secret the deal with Convergys went sour for Cincinnati. In December 2011,
the company, which provides outsourced call center services, agreed to pay a $14 million reimbursement to the city because the company’s
downtown employment fell below 1,450 — the number of jobs required under
the initial deal. The reimbursement deal also calls for the company to pay an additional $5 million if its downtown employment falls below 500 before 2020.The
Good Jobs First report finds this kind of failure is not exclusive to
the Convergys megadeal or Cincinnati; instead, the report argues that
megadeals are expensive and often fail to live up to
their high costs, some of the deals involve little if any new job
creation,” said Good Jobs First executive director Greg LeRoy in a
statement. “Some are instances of job blackmail, in which a company
threatens to move and gets paid to stay put. Others involve interstate
job piracy, in which a company gets subsidies to move existing jobs
across a state border, sometimes within the same metropolitan area.” For
the jobs that are kept and created, states and cities end up paying
$456,000 on average, with the cheapest deals costing less than $25,000
per job and the most expensive costing more than $7 million per job. The
report finds the number of megadeals per year has doubled since 2008,
on top of getting more expensive in the past three decades. Each
megadeal averaged at about $157 million in the 1980s, eventually rising
to $325 million in the 2000s. The average cost dropped to $260 million
in the 2010s, reflecting the price of deals made in the aftermath of the
Great Recession, which strapped city and state budgets.“These
subsidy awards are getting out of control,” said Philip Mattera,
research director of Good Jobs First and principal author of the report,
in a statement. “Huge packages that used to be reserved for ‘trophy’
projects creating large numbers of jobs are now being given away more
the report aims to increase transparency for such subsidies, reflecting
an ongoing goal for Good Jobs First. To do this, the organization has
set up a database (www.subsidytracker.org) that anyone can visit to track past, present and future subsidy deals.But
the report claims much of this work should already be done by the
Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB), which “has been
long-negligent in failing to promulgate regulations for how state and
local governments should account for tax-based economic development
expenditures,” according to a policy sidebar from LeRoy. “If GASB were
to finally promulgate such regulations — covering both programs and
deals — taxpayers would have standardized, comparable statistics about
megadeals and could better weigh their costs and benefits.”
by German Lopez
Ohio unemployment unchanged in May, budget overhauls taxes, streetcar vote Monday
Ohio’s unemployment rate was 7 percent in May, unchanged
from April and down from 7.3 percent in May 2012, according to Bureau of
Labor Statistics data released today by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.
Although the number of unemployed increased by 5,000 between April and May, the number of
employed also increased by 32,100, keeping the rate relatively stable.
Most sectors tracked in the report, including government, gained jobs.
The final version of the state budget would cut income taxes and create a state-based earned income tax credit,
but it would also hike the sales tax and make changes to property taxes
that effectively increase rates. Republican state legislators rolled
out the tax plan yesterday as a compromise between the Ohio House and
Senate plans. The final version looks a lot more like Gov. John Kasich’s
original tax proposal, which left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio criticized for favoring the wealthy. The budget must be signed by Kasich by June 30.
City Council is expected to vote on the streetcar project’s $17.4 million budget gap on Monday. The gap is a result of construction bids coming in much higher than expected, and solving it would involve making cuts for a slew of capital programs,
including infrastructure projects around the Horseshoe Casino. The cuts
will all come from the capital budget, which can’t be used to fund
operating budget expenses like police and fire because of limits established in
Three days after City Manager Milton Dohoney signed an
agreement leasing the city’s parking meters, lots and garages to the
Greater Cincinnati Port Authority, the Port Authority still hadn’t signed the lease, and it remains unclear when the agency plans to do so. City spokesperson Meg Olberding told CityBeat
she’s confident the Port Authority will sign the lease. But the delays
have raised questions about whether there truly will be local control
over the city’s parking assets through the Port Authority, given that
the agency is already going against the wills and assumptions of the
city government by failing to sign the lease.
City Councilman Chris Seelbach announced on Twitter
that he and Hamilton County Commissioner Chris Monzel will release a
joint statement on the city’s “responsible bidder” ordinance later today. The city
and county have been clashing over the ordinance, with county
commissioners most recently putting a hold on all Metropolitan Sewer
District projects. CityBeat covered the conflict in greater detail here.
Federal data released this week shows Ohio has some of the weakest gun laws and, as a result, is a top source for guns for crimes committed in other states.
Construction is expected to cause some downtown ramp closures and restrictions next week, so prepare for delays or a change in commute.
A Japanese scientist may have to grow his human organs in pigs.
The world’s first 3-D printed battery is as small as a grain of sand.