by German Lopez
135 days ago
Posted In: News
at 01:17 PM | Permalink
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The report looks at “three blows” of cuts to local governments: less direct aid, no money from a now-repealed estate tax and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The Republican-controlled state government repealed the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
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
137 days ago
Ohioans increasingly reliant on public health insurance
A poll analysis released today suggests more than 1.25
million Ohioans between the ages of 18 and 65 are uninsured,
representing about 17 percent of the state’s working-age population.
The poll also found that working-age Ohioans are obtaining
health insurance less through employers and more through public
insurance programs like Medicare, Medicaid and veteran benefits.
About two in 10 working-age Ohioans use public programs in 2013, up
from 12 percent in 2006. At the same time, 52 percent now get insurance
through an employer, down from 64 percent in 2006.
The numbers are relatively unchanged from 2012, according to the analysis from the Health Foundation of Greater Cincinnati.
Nearly one in 10 of those who did have insurance also reported losing it in the past 12 months.
“Certain groups are more likely to experience insurance
instability,” said Jennifer Chubinski, director of community research at the Health Foundation, in a statement. “Almost half of adults living
below 100 percent of the federal poverty level, African-Americans and
adults with less than a high school education were uninsured currently
or at some point in the past year.”The analysis also concluded that Ohioans with health insurance are generally healthier than those without it.
The results came from the 2013 Ohio Health Issues Poll,
which between May 19 and June 2 interviewed 868 Ohio adults by phone.
The poll had a margin of error of 3.3 percent. It was conducted by the
University of Cincinnati’s Institute for Policy Research for the Health
The poll’s findings could spur efforts to widen Medicaid eligibility in Ohio, which has become a contentious political issue fueled by mostly Republican opposition and Democratic support.
Under the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), states are
asked to expand the public insurance program to include everyone at or
below 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or roughly $15,856 for a
single-person household. If a state agrees, the federal government will
pay for the entire expansion for the first three years then phase its support down
to 90 percent, where it would indefinitely remain.
The offer presents a great deal for the state, according to the
Health Policy Institute of Ohio. The think tank’s analysis found the
expansion would insure roughly half a million Ohioans and generate about
$1.8 billion in revenue for the state in the next decade.
But the Republican-controlled General Assembly rejected the expansion in the state budget, despite Republican Gov. John Kasich’s pleas to embrace the Obamacare initiative.
Legislators say they’re concerned the federal government won’t be
able to uphold its commitment to Medicaid in the future. That, they
argue, would leave Ohioans stranded if the
state is forced to pare back benefits.
The federal government and states have jointly funded Medicaid programs around the nation since 1965. About 57 percent of the cost is carried by the federal government.Still, the legislature will in the fall consider a
standalone bill that would take up the expansion. But that bill will
likely face continued opposition from tea party groups that are
historically opposed to increased government spending at any level.
Whatever the case, legislative approval may be politically prudent: Earlier-reported results from the Ohio Health Issues Poll found 63 percent of Ohioans favor the Medicaid expansion.
by German Lopez
140 days ago
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
Environment Ohio finds taxpayers could be forced to pay millions for cleanups
A report released today suggests Ohio taxpayers could be on the hook for costs if something goes wrong at an oil and gas drilling operation.
The report from advocacy group Environment Ohio looks at
the costs related to “fracking,” an extraction technique that involves
pumping millions of gallons of water underground to unlock oil and gas
Recent technological advancements have
spurred a boom in fracking, leading to hundreds of new wells in Ohio and
thousands more around the nation.
When oil and gas companies obtain a permit to build a
fracking well, they typically have to provide some financial assurance
to the state in case something goes wrong. In Ohio, that assurance comes
through bonds and specific insurance requirements.
If a well operation is completed without a problem, the cost of the bonds is returned to the operator. If something goes
wrong, the company has to fix the mess before it gets its money back.
But Environment Ohio finds companies in Ohio only have to secure $5,000 in upfront bonds per well. That’s not enough for a
company to fear the financial consequences of a disaster, which means it could act
recklessly with little disincentive, according to the report.
The report says that could pose a huge cost to taxpayers:
Simply reclaiming a well and its property can cost hundreds of thousands
of dollars. Actually paying for damages, such as contaminated
groundwater and ruined roads, can cost millions.
Under normal circumstances, private and public entities
could sue for the damages, but that’s unrealistic if a well operator goes bankrupt or is otherwise unwilling or
incapable of paying.
Another potential problem: The bond payments are only held by the
state until a well is plugged and the site is reclaimed to the
satisfaction of state operators. That doesn’t account for health and
environmental damages that can surface after a drilling operation ends,
according to the report.
The issues are further compounded by
loopholes, which allow companies to avoid bonding requirements
altogether if they prove they hold a certain amount of in-state assets.
Environment Ohio calls it “an exceedingly easy test to meet.”In what it calls “common sense” reforms, Environment Ohio says the state should impose more
assurances for longer periods of time. The organization favorably cites
other states that require $250,000 in upfront bonds — much higher than
Ohio’s $5,000. For companies, that would mean a much higher financial
hurdle when taking on a fracking project, but the high cost could
provide a powerful incentive to avoid dangerous risks.The report also finds that insurance requirements in the
state are weak, with operators required to fulfill a $5 million
liability cap regardless of whether they’re running one well or 100.
recommends Ohio work to build stricter financial and regulatory
“At a minimum, Ohio needs an adequate severance tax to
fund impacts on communities and provide a cushion for long-term risk
management,” said Wendy Patton, director at left-leaning think tank
Policy Matters Ohio, in a statement released by Environment Ohio.
An oil and gas severance tax was suggested by Republican
Gov. John Kasich to pay for income tax cuts, but Republican legislators
rejected the proposal.
The report’s findings were not exclusive to Ohio. It also
found issues and suggested solutions for other states and the federal
government, including a similar call for stronger bonding requirements on
CityBeat covered the fracking boom and its effects on Ohio in further detail here.
0 Comments · Wednesday, July 17, 2013
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed
FitzGerald is urging a coalition effort to begin a long, complicated
petitioning process that could repeal some of the anti-abortion measures
in the two-year state budget.
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
Cranley's inclusion plan, effort targets abortion limits, more charter school waste found
Democratic mayoral candidate John Cranley is releasing a plan
today that promises to reward more of the city’s business contracts to
black people, Latinos and women if he’s elected. Cranley says he will
hire an inclusion officer that would help him achieve the goals of the plan,
which is modeled partly after the African American Chamber of Commerce’s
OPEN Cincinnati Plan that was passed by City Council in 2009. “In order
to make Cincinnati a world-class city, we have to have a thriving,
diverse middle class. We can’t do that if we leave half of our residents
behind economically,” Cranley said in a statement. Cranley’s main
opponent in the mayoral race is Democratic Vice Mayor Roxanne Qualls,
who supported the OPEN Cincinnati Plan in 2009. So far, the main issues surrounding the campaign have been the streetcar and parking plan — both of which Cranley opposes and Qualls supports.
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is asking Ohioans to take up a long, complicated petitioning process
that could lead to the repeal of some of the anti-abortion measures in
the state budget. The process could force the Ohio General Assembly to
consider repealing some of the measures unrelated to appropriating state
funds, or it could put the repeal effort on the ballot in November
2014. FitzGerald is jump-starting the repeal campaign through a new
website, Ohioans Fight Back. CityBeat
covered the state budget and its anti-abortion provisions, which
Republican Gov. John Kasich signed into law, in further detail here.
A state audit found more evidence of misused public funds
at Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy (CCPA), Greater Cincinnati’s
largest charter school, including one example of salary overpayment and a
range of inappropriate purchases of meals and entertainment. The
school’s former superintendent and treasurer are already facing trial on
charges of theft for previously discovered incidents. CCPA is set to
receive $6 million from the state in 2014, up 3 percent from the
previous year.The state’s prison watchdog released a new report that found force is more often used against blacks in Ohio prisons.
Nearly 65 percent of “use of force” incidents in 2012 involved blacks,
even though they only make up about 46 percent of the total prison
After analyzing reports from the first quarter, Hamilton County revised its estimates for casino revenue downward.
That means $500,000 less in 2014 for the stadium fund, which has long
presented problems for the county’s budget. Still, the county says the
revision isn’t a big problem and the focus should instead be on the bigger problem: a looming $30 million budget gap.
Following an approved transfer from the governor and his staff, Ohio’s “rainy day fund” hit an all-time record of $1.5 billion.
The fund is typically tapped into during emergency economic situations
in which the state must spend a lot of extra money or take extraordinary
measures to fix a sudden budget shortfall.
Cincinnati area exports reached a record high in 2012.
Ohio is No. 4 in the nation for foreclosures,
according to a report from real estate information company RealtyTrac.
The report adds more doubt to claims that Ohio is undergoing some
sort of unique economic recovery, following a string of reports that
found year-over-year job growth is lacking in the state. Still, Ohio added
more jobs than any other state in May. If the robust growth holds in the
June job report due next week, it could be a great economic sign for the state.
Early streetcar work is leading to a downtown street closure this weekend, presenting yet another sign that the project is moving forward. Earlier this week, CityBeat published the top 10 misrepresentations surrounding the streetcar project.
New evidence suggests a fraction of disposable wells used during the hydraulic fracturing process — also known as “fracking” — cause earthquakes,
but the risk can be averted with careful monitoring, according to the
researchers. Fracking involves pumping millions of gallons of water
underground to free up oil and gas reserves. CityBeat covered its effects in Ohio in further detail here.
A nanoparticle device can kill germs with sunlight.
by German Lopez
Posted In: Abortion
at 03:46 PM | Permalink
State budget limits access to legal abortions through various changes
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald is urging
a coalition effort to begin a long, complicated petitioning process
that could repeal some of the anti-abortion measures in the recently approved two-year state budget.
If the petitioning process is successful, it would force
the Ohio General Assembly to consider repealing aspects of the budget that don’t involve appropriations of money. If the General Assembly changes, rejects or
ignores the repeal proposal, it could be put on the ballot in November 2014.FitzGerald is jump-starting the repeal effort through a new website, Ohioans Fight Back.
Speaking at a press conference Thursday, FitzGerald also
questioned the constitutionality of some of the anti-abortion measures, particularly
those that require doctors give certain medical information regarding
abortions and restrict publicly funded rape crisis centers from
discussing abortion as a viable option. He said such rules might violate
free speech rights.
The state budget effectively defunds contraceptive care
and other non-abortion services at various family planning clinics,
including Planned Parenthood. It also makes it more difficult for
abortion clinics to establish mandatory patient transfer agreements with
The budget provides separate federal funding to crisis
pregnancy centers, which act as the pro-abstinence, anti-abortion
alternatives to comprehensive clinics like Planned Parenthood.
The budget also gives money to rape crisis centers, but
centers that take public funding are barred from discussing abortion as a
viable option with rape victims.
Days before the budget’s passage, Republican legislators
also added an amendment that forces women to get an ultrasound prior to
getting an abortion. As part of the amendment, doctors are required
to inform the patient if a heartbeat is detected during the
ultrasound and provide an estimate of the fetus’s chances of making it to birth.
FitzGerald, who’s currently Cuyahoga County executive,
plans to run against Republican Gov. John Kasich in 2014. Kasich signed the
controversial state budget with the anti-abortion measures on June 30,
despite calls for the governor to use his line-item veto powers — a
move that would have kept the rest of the budget in place but
repealed the anti-abortion provisions.
CityBeat analyzed the state budget in further detail here.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 02:20 PM | Permalink
School administrators already accused of misspending hundreds of thousands of dollars
A state audit found more evidence of misused public funds at
Greater Cincinnati’s largest charter school, including one example of salary overpayment and a range of inappropriate purchases of meals and entertainment. The school’s former
superintendent and treasurer are already facing trial on charges of theft for
previously discovered incidents.
reviewed Cincinnati College Preparatory Academy’s (CCPA) records for
fiscal year 2010, finding Stephanie Millard, the school’s former
treasurer, was overpaid by $8,307. At the same time, founder and
ex-superintendent Lisa Hamm used the school credit card for $8,495 in
payments to the Cincinnati Bengals, Benihana Japanese Steakhouse, Wahoo
Zip Lines, Omaha Steaks and Dixie Stampede.
“These two officials saw no boundaries in how they used
taxpayer dollars,” State Auditor Dave Yost said in a statement. “With
each audit, we find more of the same: total disregard for the trust
placed in them.”
CCPA responded to the audit by stating it has terminated
the credit card and replaced it with two debit cards, which supposedly
have controls in place to require approval and keep track of who’s using
the cards and for what.
The school is also reviewing contracts for the next school
year to ensure no further overpayments are made, on top of requiring
payments be board-approved.
In March, the school fired Hamm and Millard, and the two
former school officials were indicted on 26 counts of theft in office. Their attorney, Mike Allen, claims the school board approved the spending, which could mean the women didn’t break any laws.
In June, another special audit
found CCPA had inappropriately spent $520,000 for various unnecessary
expenditures, including bonuses, Christmas gifts, Nutrisystem weight
loss products and Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber concerts.
CCPA enrolls nearly 1,200 students for kindergarten
through 12th grade, with more than 95 percent coming from low-income
households, according to Ohio’s school report card data. The Ohio
Department of Education gave the school’s K-12 building in the West End a
“D” and its K-6 building in Madisonville a “B” for the 2011-2012 school
The school is set to receive roughly $6 million in state
dollars in 2014, up 3 percent from the year before. That follows the
funding trend for Ohio’s charter schools, which are generally receiving
more state money in the recently approved two-year state budget.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 11:28 AM | Permalink
Another statistic adds doubt to state’s economic recovery
A new report shows Ohio has the fourth highest housing
foreclosure rate in the nation — another troubling statistic for a state
that, according to state officials, is supposed to be undergoing a
major economic boom.
The report from RealtyTrac,
a real estate information company, put Ohio’s foreclosure rate at 0.96
percent during the first half of 2013, a 2-percent increase from a
comparable period in 2012.
Ohio’s foreclosure rate beat only Florida (1.74 percent), Nevada (1.4 percent) and Illinois (1.2 percent) in the rankings.
Ohio’s bump up in foreclosures defies the national trend:
Foreclosure starts are on track to hit about 800,000 this year, down
from 1.1 million in 2012, according to RealtyTrac. The recovery follows
the 2007-2008 recession and the housing crisis that helped cause it,
which led to a spike in foreclosures.
State officials, particularly Gov. John Kasich, often
claim Ohio has led the nation in job and economic growth following the
recession, but recent statistics have raised doubts about the claim.
A June 16 infographic from Pew Charitable Trusts found Ohio was the No. 46 state for job creation between April 2012 and April of this year, supporting claims from liberal and conservative think tanks that Ohio’s job growth has been stagnating in the past year.
Still, Ohio had a 7 percent unemployment rate in May, lower than the national rate of 7.6 percent.
The state also added 32,100 jobs in May — more than any
other state for that month. Whether that job growth holds up will be
made clearer on July 19, when the Ohio Department of Job and Family
Services will release state job numbers for June.
Kasich on June 30 signed a state budget approved by the
Republican-controlled General Assembly that Republicans claim will spur
further job growth, but a CityBeat analysis calls that claim into question.