0 Comments · Wednesday, June 12, 2013
Republican-controlled Ohio Senate passed a budget that takes multiple measures against legal
abortions and makes sweeping changes to taxes and education.
by German Lopez
Plan also cuts taxes for businesses, restores some education funding
In a party line 23-10 vote today, the Republican-controlled Ohio Senate approved a $61 billion budget plan for fiscal years
2014 and 2015 that takes multiple measures against legal
abortions, aims to cut taxes for small businesses and partly restores education funding cut in the previous 2012-2013 budget.
The budget plan gives a large amount of attention to
social issues, particularly abortion. Most recently, the Ohio Senate added an amendment that could be used by the director of the Ohio Department of Health to close down abortion clinics.The amendment bans abortion clinics from establishing transfer agreements with public hospitals, forcing the clinics to make such agreements with private hospitals,
which are often religious and could refuse to deal with abortion clinics. Under the amendment, if the clinics can’t reach a transfer agreement, the state health director is given the power to shut them down.
Abortion rights groups claim the amendment will likely be used to shut down abortion clinics or force them to dissolve their abortion services.
The bill also makes changes to family services funding
that effectively defund Planned Parenthood, a family planning services
provider that is often criticized by conservatives for offering abortion
services, even though it does so exclusively through private donations.
The bill also redirects some federal Temporary
Assistance for Needy Families funds to crisis pregnancy centers, which
effectively act as the anti-abortion alternative to comprehensive family
planning service providers like Planned Parenthood.
The changes continue a conservative push on social issues that began in the Ohio House budget (“The Chastity Bunch,” issue of April 24).Supporters praise the bill for “protecting life” and promoting “chastity” and “abstinence,” but critics are pushing back.
“Today the Ohio Senate turned its back on the health care needs of Ohio’s women and paved the way for family planning centers and abortion clinics to be closed across the state. If Gov. (John) Kasich doesn’t remove these provisions from the budget, the unintended pregnancy rate will rise, cancer will go undetected and women who need abortion care will not have safe, legal facilities to turn to in some communities,” said
Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, in a
statement. “This budget will put the lives of thousands of Ohio women at risk if Gov. Kasich fails to line-item veto these dangerous measures.”The Ohio Senate plan also scraps Ohio House plans to
cut income taxes for all Ohioans by 7 percent and instead aims to cut
taxes for small businesses by 50 percent.
Republicans claim the tax cut will help small businesses,
which they call the state’s “job creators.” But conservative and liberal
groups have criticized the plan.
In an analysis, Policy Matters Ohio,
a left-leaning policy think tank, claimed the tax cut will
inadvertently benefit “affluent passive investors” and “partners in law
firms and other partnerships.”
Given that, Zach Schiller, research director at Policy Matters, says the plan will do little for Ohio’s economy.
“The fastest growing small businesses are not making money
because they’re investing heavily in their operations — in marketing,
research and sales,” Schiller says. “So if they’re making anything,
they’re investing it by and large in the business, so they’re not likely
to be able to benefit very much from this.”
He adds, “Meanwhile, you’re going to have passive
investors who have no role in adding employees and partners in law
firms, architecture firms, accounting firms and other kinds of
professional organizations who will personally benefit from this in a
way that I think is unlikely to generate more employment.”
Instead of focusing on tax cuts, Schiller argues the state
should be increasing direct investments, particularly in education
and human services.
The conservative Tax Foundation echoed some of Schiller’s criticisms in a blog post.
“This is bad policy, and many supporters are errantly
pushing it under the guise of putting more money in the hands of
‘job-creators.’ But this is based on a flawed understanding of what
creates jobs,” wrote Scott Drenkard of the Tax Foundation. “The
businesses that actually create jobs are not small businesses or big
businesses; they are businesses that are growing. And that type of
business is virtually impossible to target with a tax incentive.”
The budget plan restores about $717 million in
education funding, but that’s not enough to outweigh the $1.8 billion in education funding
that was cut in the 2012-2013 budget, which Kasich and the
Republican-controlled legislature approved in 2011.
The education funding increases will disproportionately favor the state’s property-wealthiest districts —
effectively giving the biggest funding increases to school districts
that can already afford to raise more money by leveraging high local
Stephen Dyer, an education policy fellow at the left-leaning Innovation Ohio, captured the disproportionate funding increases in chart form in a blog post:The chart shows only 15 percent of funding increases will go to the property-poorest one-third of school districts, while a vast majority of the increases will go to the property-wealthiest one-third.Health care advocates were also disappointed to see the
Ohio Senate pass on a federally funded Medicaid expansion, which would
allow anyone at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level —
$15,856 for a single-person household and $32,499 for a family of four — to enroll in the government-backed health care program.
Kasich proposed expanding Medicaid in his original budget plan (“Smoke and Mirrors,” issue of Feb. 20), but Ohio legislators are skeptical of the expansion’s consequences.
As part of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), the
Medicaid expansion would be fully financed by the federal government for
the first three years. After that, federal payments would be phased
down to capture 90 percent of the expansion, where federal funding would
Republican legislators, backed by Republican State
Treasurer Josh Mandel, are skeptical the federal government can afford
the expansion. There’s no historical precedent for the federal
government failing to meet its obligations to Medicaid, but
Republican legislators argue there’s also no historical precedent for
the federal government backing such large Medicaid expansions across the
A Health Policy Institute of Ohio study found the Medicaid expansion would save the state $1.8 billion and insure nearly half a million Ohioans over the next decade.The budget also fails to restore local government funding cuts that have been carried out during Kasich’s time in office. In comparison to fiscal years 2010 and 2011, local governments are receiving about 50 percent less aid from the state, leading to $22.2 million less funds for Cincinnati on an annual basis (“Enemy of the State,” issue of March 20).When asked to explain the various cuts to education and local government funding in the 2012-2013 budget, Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols told CityBeat in September 2012, “The reality is we walked into an $8 billion budget deficit. … We had to fix that.”The Ohio legislature and Kasich must agree on a budget plan in time for a June 30 deadline.
0 Comments · Wednesday, June 5, 2013
Ohio Senate Republicans unveiled a budget
plan on May 28 that would keep social issues at the forefront and
refocus tax reforms on small businesses instead of all Ohioans.
by German Lopez
Private prison mired in problems, Kentucky libraries threatened, council to pass budget
Since Ohio sold the Lake Erie Correctional Institution to
the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), prisoner accounts and
independent audits have found deteriorating conditions at the minimum- and medium-security facility. In the past few months, prisoners detailed unsanitary conditions and
rising violence at the prison, which were later confirmed by
official incident reports and a surprise inspection from the
Correctional Institution Inspection Committee. Now, the American Civil
Liberties Union of Ohio is calling on the state to do more to hold CCA
accountable. To read the full story, click here.
A Northern Kentucky lawsuit backed by the tea party is threatening library funding across the state.
The problems get into the specifics of Kentucky’s tax code,
potentially unraveling the entire library system by forcing the state’s
libraries to get voter approval before increasing or decreasing taxes.
If the courts rule against the libraries, the libraries could have to
set their tax rates back to levels from decades ago, leading to
considerably less funding for the public institutions.
City Council is set to approve a budget plan today that will avoid laying off cops and firefighters,
but it will make considerable cuts to many other city programs,
increase fees for various services and raise property taxes. The public
safety layoffs were averted despite months of threats from city
officials that such layoffs couldn’t be avoided without the city’s plan
to semi-privatize parking assets. But the parking plan is being held up in court, and City Council managed to avoid the public safety layoffs anyway.
Commentary: “Commissioners’ Proposed Streetcar Cut Ignores the Basics.”
A budget bill from the Ohio Senate would keep social issues at the forefront
and refocus tax reforms on small businesses instead of all Ohioans. The
bill would potentially allow Ohio's health director to shut down
abortion clinics, effectively defund Planned Parenthood, fund
anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers and forgo the Medicaid expansion,
while cutting taxes by 50 percent for business owners instead of going
through with a 7-percent across-the-board tax cut for all Ohioans.
The Ohio legislature is moving to take away
the state auditor’s powers to audit private funds that JobsOhio and other taxpayer-funded private entities take in. State Auditor
Dave Yost is looking to do a full audit of JobsOhio that includes
private funds, but other Republicans, led by Gov. John Kasich, have
pushed back, claiming Yost can only check on public funds. JobsOhio is a
privatized development agency that Kasich and Republican legislators
established to eventually replace the Ohio Department of Development.
A teacher who was fired from a Catholic school when she
got pregnant through artificial insemination when she was single is
taking the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati to court, with hearings now underway. The Church’s critics argue that the Vatican’s stance on single pregnant women is
discriminatory, since it makes it much easier to enforce anti-premarital
sex rules against women than men.
Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is facing $14.8 million in deficits
in its next budget — a sign that years of cuts are continuing at the
school district. CPS says the shortfall is driven by state cuts, which CityBeat previously covered in greater detail and how they relate to CPS here.
Hamilton County commissioners are asking Cincinnati to merge its 911 call centers with the county. The change would likely save money for both Cincinnati and Hamilton County, but it remains uncertain how it would affect the effectiveness of 911 services.Scientists are using yogurt to study how food interacts with the brain.
CityBeat is doing a quick survey on texting while driving. Participate here.
To get your questions answered in CityBeat’s Answers Issue, submit your questions here.
by German Lopez
Final plan makes cuts elsewhere, raise taxes and fees
City Council approved a budget motion today that will avert all public safety layoffs in the fiscal year 2014 budget. But if the overall operating budget plan is approved by a majority of council tomorrow, many city services will be cut and property taxes and numerous fees will go up.The operating budget plan, which passed with an 8-1 vote, comes after months of city officials threatening to lay off cops and firefighters if the city did not approve a plan to lease Cincinnati's parking assets to the Port Authority, which city officials previously claimed was necessary to raise funds that would help balance the operating budget for two years and fund economic development projects. But the parking plan is currently being held up in court, and the public safety layoffs are being avoided anyway.Last week, council members Roxanne Qualls and Chris Seelbach announced a budget motion that would avoid all fire layoffs and all but 25 police layoffs. The remaining 25 police layoffs are being undone through the budget motion approved today, which increases estimates for incoming revenues with $1 million that is supposed to be paid back to the city's tax increment financing fund.Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan did not sign onto the plan, articulating concerns that the budget maneuver will make the deficit worse in 2015 and fail to structurally balance the budget.Even with the motion, the overall operating budget plan would make cuts elsewhere and raise fees and property taxes. If the plan is approved, about 60 city employees are expected to lose their jobs in the next couple weeks.The cuts swept through most of the city government, hitting parks, the arts, human services, parades, administrative budgets and outside agencies, among many other areas.The operating budget portion of the property tax will also climb from 5.7 mills in 2014 to 6.1 mills in 2015, which comes out to an extra $34 for every $100,000 in property value. The latest property tax increase comes after City Council approved a hike in 2013, pushing the property tax from 4.6 mills in 2013 to 5.7 mills in 2014.The plan would also raise fees for several city services, including fire plan reviews and admission into the Krohn Conservatory.Multiple council members claimed the austerity was necessary because of the state government, which has cut local government funding by about 50 percent during Gov. John Kasich's time in office ("Enemy of the State," issue of March 20).Still, Lea Eriksen, the city's budget director, previously pointed out Cincinnati has not passed a structurally balanced budget since 2001.City Council will vote on the overall budget plan May 30. Council members Qualls, Seelbach, Pam Thomas, Wendell Young and Yvette Simpson are expected to vote in favor of the plan, giving it enough votes to pass City Council.
Northern Kentucky tea party-backed lawsuit threatens library funding across the state
0 Comments · Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Today, a tea party-backed lawsuit based
on the wording of a 1979 law has Kentuckians wondering what life would
be like with a weakened public library system — or, worse, with no
library at all.
by German Lopez
Posted In: Budget
at 10:31 AM | Permalink
Plan includes property tax hike, police and fire layoffs
City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. released his operating
budget plan for fiscal years 2014 and 2015 today. The plan makes
lower-than-expected cuts to police, fire and other city departments to
help balance the $35 million deficit in the operating budget for fiscal
year 2014, but it would also effectively raise property taxes.
The City Charter allows the city to leverage 6.1 mills in
property taxes, but City Council only approved the use of 5.7 mills for
the operating budget in 2014, up from 4.6 mills in 2013. The budget plan
would leverage the full 6.1 mills in 2015, effectively raising annual
property taxes between 2014 and 2015 by $34 for every $100,000 in property value.Water Works rates would also be reworked with a new
pricing structure, which would add $3.11 to a Water Works customer’s
bill each quarter.
The budget plan recommends laying off 66 employees in the
Police Department, down from a previous estimate of 149. Fire
personnel layoffs were also reduced to 71, down from 118. In other
departments, 64 would be laid off.
The budget release estimates the fire layoffs would lead
to an estimated 10 brownouts a day in which one truck in a firehouse would not run.About $20.4 million of the fiscal year 2014 budget gap would
be closed by cutting expenditures, while the rest would be closed with
changes in revenue.
The budget release says the cuts are a result of the
city’s parking plan falling through in light of a referendum effort and
legal challenges: “While the Manager’s budget, with support from policy
makers, has typically centered on strategies for growth to expand the
local economy, this budget is constructed in light of the lack of
revenue from the Parking Modernization and Lease, approved by the
majority of City Council but held up in litigation.”
With the reduced layoffs, the city will save money by paying less in accrued leave and unemployment insurance.
Previously, city officials estimated it would cost about $10
million to lay people off, but that number was reduced to
$3.5 million in the revised budget plan.
The budget plan would also eliminate 17 vacant full-time
positions in various departments and delay filling other vacant
positions, which the budget release says would cause some strain: “These
vacant position eliminations and prolonged position vacancies would
further challenge departments that have already experienced significant
funding and position reductions in prior budget years.”
The plan would also increase employees’ cost share for
health care from 5 percent to 10 percent, reduce cost of living
adjustments and force furloughs, which would span to executive and
senior level management positions, including the city manager. The
changes effectively add up to a 1.9 percent salary reduction, according to the
Other cuts in the budget were selected through the
Priority-Driven Budgeting Process, which used
surveys and public meetings to gauge what city programs are most important
to local citizens. About $1.7 million would come from
personnel and service reductions in the Health Department’s Community Health Environmental
Inspections programs, the Law Department and the Department of Recreation.
Another $1.5 million would be cut from funding to outside entities, including human services agencies, the Neighborhood Support Program, the Greater
Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce and the African American Chamber of
Furthermore, subsidies for “Heritage Events,” such as the
Findlay Market Opening Day Parade and St. Patrick’s Day Parade, would be
eliminated, along with all arts funding.
The budget plan would also eliminate various other
services, including the Bush Recreation Center in Walnut Hills, the
Office of Environmental Quality’s Energy Management program and the
Cincinnati Police Department’s mounted patrol unit.
The budget plan includes a slew of new fees: a $75 fee for
accepted Community Reinvestment Area residential tax abatement
applications, a $25 late fee for late income tax filers, a $100 fee for
fire plan reviews, an unspecified hazardous material cleanup fee, a
50-cent hike for admission into the Krohn Conservatory and an
unspecified special events fee for city resources used for special
The budget plan would also use casino revenue: $9.1 million in 2013 and 2014 and $7.5 million in 2015.
The city was originally planning to lease its parking
assets to the Greater Cincinnati Port Authority to help balance the
operating budget and fund economic development projects (“Parking Stimulus,” issue of Feb. 27), but the plan will be on the November ballot this year if court challenges are successful.
But if the city is successful in court, the budget release
claims many of the cuts could be undone by using revenue from the
The city manager’s office says the budget must be approved
by City Council and the mayor by June 1 to provide 30 days for the
budget’s implementation in time for fiscal year 2014, which begins July
Previously, the city could have used an emergency clause
to eliminate a 30-day waiting period for implementing laws, but City
Solicitor John Curp says the court challenges have effectively
eliminated the power behind emergency clauses by making all laws, even
laws passed with an emergency clause, susceptible to referendum within
The operating budget is separate from the streetcar budget, which is also facing a $17.4 million budget shortfall.
The streetcar is funded through the capital budget, which can’t be used
to balance the operating budget because of budgeting limits established
in state law.
by German Lopez
at 09:23 AM | Permalink
Anna Louise Inn rally today, casino revenue drops, Ohio's business climate improves
Supporters of the Anna Louise Inn, the women-only shelter near Lytle Park, will hold a rally in front of the Hamilton County
Courthouse at noon today, which was supposed to be the day Western &
Southern and Anna Louise Inn owner Cincinnati Union Bethel met in court
again. The court date has been delayed as the controversy continues to
grow. The legal battle surrounds Western & Southern’s attempts to
take over the Anna Louise Inn property and build a luxury hotel in its
stead. After Western & Southern failed to buy the Inn at below
market value in 2009, the financial giant has taken to court challenges to
slow down government-funded renovations at the property and seemingly
force Cincinnati Union Bethel to give up and sell. CityBeat’s extensive coverage about the Anna Louise Inn can be found here.
Cincinnati’s Horseshoe Casino dropped to the No. 3 spot
for Ohio casino revenue last month, losing out to casinos in Columbus and
Cleveland. The Horseshoe Casino brought in adjusted gross revenues of
$17.8 million, according to figures released by the Ohio Casino Control
Commission. With the drop, the city’s projections of bringing in $10 million to
$12 million in casino tax revenue for the year are looking far more
Ohio’s business climate is the most improved in the nation,
with Ohio’s rank going from No. 35 in 2012 to No. 22 this year,
according to the annual survey of CEOs by Chief Executive Magazine. The
improved ranking comes despite Ohio losing half a star in “workforce
quality” and “taxation and regulations” between 2012 and 2013.
But the ranking doesn’t seem to be translating to real jobs,
considering both liberal and conservative think tanks seemingly agree
Ohio is not undergoing an “economic miracle.”
If the city fails to restore its emergency powers through court battles, it could ask voters to reinstate the powers
on the November ballot, according to City Solicitor John Curp. Previously, the city used emergency clauses to
remove 30-day waiting periods on laws and effectively remove the ability
for voters to referendum, but opponents of the city’s parking plan
say the City Charter does not explicitly remove referendum rights. So
far, courts have sided against the city; if that holds, voters will have
to rework the City Charter to restore the powers.
A study from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital found nurse-to-patient ratios really do matter.
Charles Ramsey, the man who allegedly helped save three
kidnapped women and a child in Cleveland, has become an Internet
sensation because of his expressive interview with a TV news station. Read more on the kidnappings at the Toledo Blade.
A 32-year-old Hamilton man jumped on a moving train because, according to him, he’s filming an action movie.
News of massacres and gun violence can seem pretty bleak
at times, but it’s worth remembering gun homicides in the United States
are down 49 percent since 1993. The analysis from The Washington Post and Pew Research points to economic conditions, stricter prison sentences and lead abatement as driving factors, but it’s also worth noting the Brady Act,
which requires background checks on many firearm purchases, passed in
1993 and went into effect in 1994, around the time the dip in gun
Teachers, rejoice. New software can teach photocopiers to grade papers.
A vaccine halts heroin addiction in rats, and it’s now ready for human trials.
0 Comments · Wednesday, April 24, 2013
The budget bill currently working through
the Republican-controlled Ohio legislature would cut taxes in a way
that favors the wealthy, according to a new analysis.
by German Lopez
Posted In: News
at 09:00 AM | Permalink
House budget bill may suppress student voters, tax plan favors wealthy, police chief may go
An amendment in the Ohio House budget bill last week would make it so universities have to decide
between providing voting information to students or retaining millions
of dollars in out-of-state tuition money. The amendment would make it so
universities have to classify students as in-state — a classification
that means lower tuition rates — when providing documents necessary for
voting. Republicans claim the measure is “common sense” because anyone
voting for Ohio’s elections should be an Ohio resident. But the
amendment has provoked criticism from Democrats and universities alike,
who say universities are being thrown into the middle of a voter
An analysis from left-leaning Policy Matters Ohio found
the tax plan currently working through the Republican-controlled Ohio
legislature favors the wealthy.
The analysis also claimed there’s little evidence the across-the-board
tax cuts suggested would significantly help Ohio’s economy.
The plan still needs to be approved by the Republican-controlled Ohio
Senate and Republican Gov. John Kasich.
Council members are asking Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig to remain in Cincinnati
instead of taking a job in Detroit, but City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.
didn’t seem convinced that much can be done. Dohoney said Craig’s
hometown is Detroit, a city that has suffered in recent years as the
local economy has rapidly declined.
Democratic Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald is running for governor, and he will make Cincinnati one of his first stops
for his campaign kick-off tour. FitzGerald is challenging Republican
Gov. John Kasich in 2014, who has held the governor’s office since 2010. A recent poll found Kasich in a comfortable position with a nine-point lead on
FitzGerald, but many respondents said they don’t know enough about
FitzGerald to have an opinion on him.
Greater Cincinnati home sales hit a six-year high in March,
with 2,190 homes sold. The strong housing market, which is recovering
from a near collapse in 2008, is widely considered by economists to be a
good sign for the overall economy.
But Ohio’s venture capital investments dropped to a two-year low, according to data from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association.
The Ohio EPA and Hamilton County Recycling and Solid Waste District are partnering up to provide a $250,000 grant to help purchase equipment to screen, clean and sort glass — an important part of the recycling industry.
Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld is asking Cincinnatians to
forgo lunch on April 24 to take part in the Greater Cincinnati Day of
Fasting. The event will let participants “experience a small measure
of the hunger that is a part of many people’s daily lives,” according to
a press release from Sittenfeld’s office. Participants are also being
asked to donate money to the Freestore Foodbank. A ceremony for the
event will be held on April 24 at noon in Fountain Square.
The U.S. Senate is moving toward approving bill that would allow states to better enforce and collect online sales taxes.
Mars One is calling all applicants for a mission to colonize Mars in 2023.
The sport of the future is here: combat juggling: