Following the passage of the state biennial budget last month, we heard phrases like “an Ohio miracle” and “beneficial to hard-working Ohioans” uttered from those in the majority about their plan to fund the state the next two years.
Unfortunately, there is nothing miraculous about this budget’s tax plan.
Proponents of the bill are quick to mention that this is the first time in over a decade that Ohio’s “rainy day fund” has been at capacity, and how they were able to make a tax cut through the new budget process. What they fail to tell you however, is how they got there.
In 2011, Gov. Kasich’s first budget made drastic cuts to our schools, resulting in many local levies proposed across the state to help shore up funds for education. Unfortunately, while some of those levies passed, many did not. When the state Legislature had the opportunity this year to restore funding for education, they instead opted to top off the rainy day fund and give an income tax cut that disproportionately benefits the wealthiest Ohioans.
In fact, the majority party in this General Assembly has made an already bad situation worse for our schools, by eliminating the property tax rollback on new levies. Just look at Columbiana schools, where a new levy has been proposed to fund a new roof and some refurbishments to South Side Middle School. The school district, doing its homework, has calculated that an owner of a $100,000 home would pay an additional $37.67 a year. Without the rollback, that additional tax will increase by over 14 percent.
Furthermore, Republicans have decided to eliminate the homestead exemption for many seniors who would have been eligible, raise the state sales tax and increase numerous other taxes to help pay for the aforementioned income tax cuts. That means for Columbiana residents, if this fall levy is implemented, only taxpayers making over $143,000 would be out of the red when factoring in all of the new tax changes.
Disguising this plan as a comeback for Ohio by lowering taxes for the wealthy is disingenuous, especially when it is at the expense of our schools and local communities, with middle class Ohioans picking up the tab. Going forward, we need to find ways to provide more equitable tax relief for all hard-working Ohioans, while simultaneously allowing for investment in the futures of our children. It is through education that Ohio can first start to move towards a lasting recovery.
While there is a need for the levy in Columbiana as well as many more across the state, we must get serious about supporting education and take the burden off local taxpayers. Rep. Nick Barborak and I have proposed, at the very least, delaying the elimination of the rollback to not include levies already proposed for this year’s ballots. It is my hope that this change will help to convince Columbiana residents and other residents across Ohio with levies on their ballots this year, to help support public education.
We do not need a “miracle” to fix Ohio, but rather reasonable and rational solutions through budget proposals that will help our economy grow. The time to do so is now, and I look forward in working together to make the investments that will benefit our children, communities and the future of all Ohioans.
Democratic Sen. Joe Schiavoni represents Ohio’s 33rd Senate District, which consists of Mahoning and Columbiana counties.