Policy Matters Ohio

Lewis Wallace / WYSO/data from Policy Matters Ohio

This Labor Day we take a look at the economy in our state, and there has been some good news: unemployment is down to pre-Recession levels, with Ohio’s rate hitting 5 percent in July. But there are some negative trends, too: Wage growth hasn’t nearly kept up with growing productivity in the economy—last year, wages in the state ticked down to a median of $16.05 per hour, lagging just behind the national median.

Kasich Still Fighting To Get 'Fracking' Tax Approved This Year

Jun 2, 2015
Lawmakers scrapped Gov. Kasich's proposal that would have given schools less money.
User: Thoth188 / Flickr/Creative Commons

Senate leaders are talking about possibly creating a so-called "fracking" tax through this year’s budget plan. The fight over increasing the oil and natural gas tax has been a long battle on many fronts.

The Senate plans on releasing a revised budget any day now and it might include an increase to what’s known as the severance tax—this is a tax on the oil and gas extracted from Ohio’s shale. 

If that happens, it could be Gov. John Kasich’s closest shot at getting an increase to pass in three years.

Kasich Receives Mixed Reaction For Severance Tax Proposal

Feb 4, 2015
Ohio Statehouse News Bureau

House leaders are looking over Gov. John Kasich’s budget proposal which includes a big swing of the bat when it comes to a tax increase on oil and gas drilling. But the industry is ready to fight the plan.

Kasich is trying again to raise the so-called severance tax, this time proposing to move it to 6.5 percent, which he says would raise $325 million. 

Shawn Bennett with the Ohio Oil and Gas Association says the industry is already hurting because of a drop in prices. He claims a higher tax rate will further discourage investment. 

401kcalculator.org/Flickr/Creative Commons

A national report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy ranks Ohio 18th in the country for most imbalanced tax systems. In a “regressive” tax system, low- and middle-income people pay a larger balance of their incomes in state and local taxes than high earners. The study finds very few states with “progressive” tax systems, and ranks Washington, Florida, Texas, South Dakota and Illinois as the top five for regressive systems.

A hearing in Clark County Tuesday brought state legislators and policy advocates together to strategize on addressing Ohio's unemployment debt.
Wayne Baker / WYSO

Ohio legislators are trying to figure out how to pay down almost $1.4 billion in debt to the federal government for the state's unemployment fund. Ohio's Unemployment Compensation Study Committee held a hearing in Clark County Tuesday to address concerns about the fund. 

The state borrowed lots of money from the federal government during the Great Recession to make up for shortfalls in its unemployment fund. 

This Labor Day, there are a record low number of Ohioans in the labor force—fewer than there have been since October 1978. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports just 59 percent of Americans 16 and over have declared that they are part of the labor force; in Ohio, that figure is just under 63 percent, a 34-year low. That’s not the only thing that has the progressives at Policy Matters Ohio worried. Amy Hanauer says the group’s annual Labor Day report also shows the state lost more than 2.3 percent of its jobs since 2005, while the country added 3.8 percent in that same period.

Chris Potter / Flickr Creative Commons

Ohio’s looking at an $800 million surplus at the end of its fiscal year, and Republican Governor John Kasich has been touting $400 million in tax cuts in the latest mid-term budget, known as the mid-biennium review.

Ellen Belcher, who's filling in for Emily McCord, interviews Wendy Patton of Policy Matters Ohio about a recent survey that the liberal-leaning think tank did of Ohio's schools. The state's 600-plus school districts have been hit with a two-year $1.8 billion cut in funding. That means their state aid has dropped to 2003 levels. Policy Matters estimates that Ohio has 2,500 fewer teachers in the classroom as a result. Districts are reluctant to ask for more local money from voters and instead are cutting their budgets in unprecedented ways.