By Marc Kovac
The Ohio Senate began work this week on a new tax cut, prompted by expected state savings from a Medicaid expansion backed by federal funds.
Sen. Chris Widener, R-Springfield, one of two Republican lawmakers on the state Controlling Board who signed off on spending authority to accommodate the move, offered testimony before the Senate Finance Committee on legislation that would cut income tax rates by an additional 4 percent across the board.
“I am a firm believer that Ohio families are the best stewards of their own money, and that allowing Ohio taxpayers to directly benefit from the unbudgeted savings is an economically sensible thing to do,” Widener said.
“Allowing individual Ohioans to prioritize their needs with their own money will create an environment in which the economic impact of those funds are maximized, both in relation to the individual taxpayer and the state of Ohio as well.”
But one Democratic member of the Senate Finance Committee and the Republican head of the Ohio House both voiced reservations of the proposal, questioning whether funds should instead be directed into other services.
Sen. Joe Schiavoni of Boardman, D-33rd, asked Widener during his sponsor testimony, “If you’re going to invest $404 million somewhere, shouldn’t it be invested in something that you can see results with — early childhood education or back into the public schools so that we can give every student the opportunity to grow rather than just to give a little bit to everybody?”
House Speaker Bill Batchelder, R-Medina, who said he hadn’t reviewed Widener’s legislation, said he thought lawmakers should consider other pressing needs before moving forward with a tax cut.
“The veterans are not being adequately treated, [and] we have tremendous problems with heroin addiction in this state,” he said.
“We have a lot of problems. I think we probably [should] look there first. I’m not being critical of the Senate, but I think we want to look there before we would do a cut of that size.”