LWV-Ohio Urges State Lawmakers to Take Balanced Approach

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Joanna Helon
May 6, 2011 Interim Executive Director
Phone: (614) 469-1505
Email: leg@lwvohio.org

LWV-Ohio Urges State Lawmakers to Take Balanced Approach

The League of Women Voters of Ohio (LWV-Ohio) believes it is the responsibility of our state government to ensure that all Ohio children have access to quality education, and to protect basic human services, including health care for vulnerable Ohioans. Governor Kasich seeks to achieve these outcomes while simultaneously addressing the $8 billion budget shortfall and encouraging business growth to improve Ohio’s economy and reduce unemployment. We respect and applaud these goals.

We also applaud the Governor’s desire to increase the cost-effectiveness and quality of service delivery to Ohioans. Likewise, it is commendable to ask local governments to seek ways to consolidate services and thereby reduce costs.

However, rather than create a more business-friendly climate for business, the proposed budget threatens to undermine the supports necessary for an educated workforce and a business-friendly tax environment. For example:

? Significant cuts in funding will cause many school systems to face sizeable budget shortfalls. They will need to increase local revenues to cover the shortfall or significantly reduce educational services.

? The proposed budget cuts will likely contribute to increased inequity among the educational systems across the state, as wealthier school districts are likely to be able to increase taxes to maintain quality education while other districts will not. If Ohio is to have an educated workforce, we will need to provide a quality education to all Ohio children – not just those in wealthy districts.

? As counties, local governments and school districts seek additional local tax revenue to address their budget gaps; the governor’s goal to make Ohio a more tax- and business-friendly state will be undermined.

We also believe that the needs of Ohio’s vulnerable citizens will not be addressed with a budget that relies only on cuts in funding. For example:

? The proposed budget reduces funding for home care to Ohio’s seniors and persons with disabilities. The result of such cuts is that it is likely that these citizens will be forced to rely on more expensive nursing home care.

? Cuts to state services will force county and local governments to 1) cease providing essential
services, e.g., mental health services; or 2) find new sources of revenue to maintain community
services – thereby increasing the tax burden on Ohioans in an ad hoc and piecemeal fashion.

The LWV-Ohio believes there must be a balanced approach to Ohio’s budget challenge. For example, Ohio’s approximately $7 billion in tax expenditures must be reviewed critically to determine which serve an important purpose and which can be eliminated without harming our economic development. In addition, we suggest serious consideration be given to the following:

? Means test the homestead exemption;
? Restore the income tax rate to the rate in effect in 2010;
? Retain the estate tax. This is not the time to eliminate a tax that is of paramount importance to many localities already facing budget shortfalls.
? Expand the base of the sales tax to include more goods and services.
We urge legislators to consider a balanced approach to the 2011-2013 state budget that includes creative ways to reduce costs, moderate increases in taxes and the elimination of some of the tax expenditures. We believe Ohio can achieve both the goal of an improved economic environment in which Ohioans can find employment and earn a living wage—and the goal of ensuring Ohio’s children and most vulnerable citizens are protected.