WHAT SHOULD I BE DOING INSTEAD OF THIS?
 
 
by German Lopez 07.24.2013
Posted In: News, Budget at 01:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

State Budget Cuts Local Government Funding

Policy Matters Ohio finds cities, counties will receive $720 million less from state

The recently passed state budget means cities and counties will get even less money from the state, according to a new report from progressive think tank Policy Matters Ohio. The report looks at “three blows” of cuts to local governments: less direct aid, no money from a now-repealed estate tax and the beginning of the end of a state subsidy that supported local property taxes. The cuts add up to at least $720 million less over the next two years than cities and counties got in the past two years, the report finds. It’s even less money when looking further back in Ohio’s history — specifically before Republican Gov. John Kasich took office. “Local governments will see $1.5 billion less in tax revenues and state aid compared with” fiscal years 2010 and 2011, said Wendy Patton, the report’s author, in a statement. “Fiscal crisis will continue in many communities.” Kasich and Republican legislators slashed local government funding in 2011 to help fix an $8 billion budget hole. But the latest state budget, which Kasich signed into law in June, was awash in extra revenues because of Ohio’s economic recovery — so much so that legislators passed $2.7 billion in tax cuts. The Republican-controlled state government repealed the estate tax in the last budget, but some Democrats and local governments were hopeful at least some of the lost money could be restored this year. Casino revenue was supposed to curtail some of the cuts, but Policy Matters concludes it’s not enough. Casino revenue has also consistently come under expectations: The state government in 2009 estimated Ohio’s casinos would take in $1.9 billion a year, but that projection was changed in February to roughly $1 billion a year. For Cincinnati, the previous round of budget cuts cost the city more than $22 million in revenues — nearly two-thirds of the budget gap the city faced for fiscal year 2014. Although the city managed to avoid laying off cops and firefighters as a result, it still had to slash other city services and raise property taxes. Some city and county officials are trying to persuade the state government to undo the cuts. In March, Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld gathered officials around the state to launch ProtectMyOhio.com, which lets citizens write directly to the state government about the cuts.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.19.2013
Posted In: News, Parking, Economy, Taxes at 09:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

Port wants parking lease money, Ohio No. 2 for job losses, Kasich plans more tax cuts

New documents acquired by The Cincinnati Enquirer show the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority wants $27 million of the city’s $92 million parking lease. The Port Authority, a city-funded development agency, says it would use the money for various projects around the city. The request, which has been supported by Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls, may explain why the Port Authority inexplicably took four days to sign its lease agreement with the city: It wanted some of the money for itself. The city is leasing its parking meters, lots and garages to the Port Authority, which will then hire various private operators from around the country to manage the assets. The deal will provide $92 million up front and at least $3 million a year afterward, which the city plans to use for development projects and to plug budget gaps. Ohio lost the No. 2 most jobs in the nation last month, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That pushed the state unemployment rate to 7.2 percent in June, up from 7 percent in May, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services found. The state lost 12,500 jobs in June, with the private sector showing losses across the board. The month’s big losses mean the state has only added 15,000 jobs in the past year, even though the state actually topped job growth in May with more than 32,000 new jobs. In June, Pew Charitable Trusts found Ohio was the No. 46 state for job growth between April 2012 and April this year. Gov. John Kasich says he wants to further cut state taxes to reduce the bracket for the wealthiest Ohioans to less than 5 percent. Such a cut could require raising regressive taxes that put more of a burden on the state’s poorest, such as the sales tax. The latest two-year state budget, which Kasich signed into law, did just that, as CityBeat previously covered: It cut income taxes in a way that favored the wealthy, then it raised sales taxes in a way that forced the lowest-income Ohioans to pay more. A report released yesterday suggests Ohio taxpayers could be on the hook for costs if something goes wrong at an oil and gas drilling operation. The Environment Ohio report finds the state’s regulations on “fracking,” an oil and gas extraction process, require too little financial assurance from drilling companies to dissuade dangerous risks. In Ohio, fracking well operators are required to secure $5,000 in upfront bonds per well, but even those payments can be avoided through regulatory loopholes. At the same time, damage caused by fracking can cost communities and the state millions of dollars, and simply reclaiming the well and its property can cost hundreds of thousands. Hamilton County Prosecutor Joe Deters says he wouldn’t have prosecuted George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed an unarmed black 17-year-old last year in Florida. Zimmerman was found not guilty of manslaughter and second-degree murder by a jury on July 13 after he claimed self-defense. A lack of local access to healthy foods was linked to higher obesity rates in a study released yesterday. That could be troubling news for Avondale and other Cincinnati neighborhoods that are deemed “food deserts,” areas that don’t have reasonable access to healthy foods. CityBeat covered the efforts of some city officials, including Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan, to end food deserts here. Cincinnati is looking for feedback on local bike projects. The American Civil Liberties Union is asking Ohio to avoid shutting off electricity in state prisons, calling the practice “dangerous” as temperatures approach 100 degrees. Ohio’s prisons have already shut down electricity twice in the afternoon this week and relied on backup generators. The shutdowns are commonly deployed as part of a power agreement that’s generated $1.3 million for the state since 2010. Harris Teeter Supermarkets shareholders are suing to stop a planned acquisition from Kroger. Detroit yesterday became the biggest city in U.S. history to file for bankruptcy. An “invisibility wetsuit” hides people from sharks.
 
 
by German Lopez 07.17.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Parking, Fracking at 09:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
city hall

Morning News and Stuff

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 07.09.2013
Posted In: News, Casino, Budget, Infrastructure at 09:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
brent spence bridge

Morning News and Stuff

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 budgets. 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.
 
 

Bad News Budget

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 06.27.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Taxes at 12:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Report: State Budget Tax Plan Favors Wealthy

Top 1 percent to get $6,083 tax cut

An analysis 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 07.02.2013
Posted In: News, Development, Voting, Budget at 09:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
pride_seelbach_jf

Morning News and Stuff

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 07.01.2013
Posted In: News, Budget, Health care, Education at 09:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
cover-kasich-2

Morning News and Stuff

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 06.28.2013
Posted In: News, Abortion, Budget, 2013 Election at 09:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
ohio statehouse

Morning News and Stuff

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’ analysis. 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 same-sex marriage. 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.
 
 

Get Out of Jail Fee

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.   

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