State Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) and Ohio House Democratic lawmakers today stood in opposition to House Bill 64, the state’s two-year budget bill. Democratic legislators voted against the measure, which they say lacks a vision to grow the economy and offers little opportunity for average Ohioans to get ahead. Instead, Democrats argue the bill advances partisan attacks on working Ohioans and policies that rig the tax system to help the richest one-percent and special interests.
The budget includes an untargeted income tax cut that will disproportionately benefit the wealthiest few Ohioans. According to independent reports, Ohio’s top wage earners will see their taxes cut by an average of over $10,000 while middle class Ohioans will only see a net tax reduction of approximately $13. Working class Ohioans fare even worse under the Republican tax cuts, seeing an average tax increase of 26 over the biennium.
The bill also gives millionaires a quarter-of-a-million dollar tax break if they structure their income as a so-called small business entity through the Ohio Secretary of State.
House Democrats expressed disappointment in the Republican-controlled legislature’s revived policies of untargeted income tax cuts since 2005, which have yet to yield promised job creation figures. Ohio is one of the last states to recover jobs lost during the Great Recession.
“Since 2005, Ohio’s median income has dropped by $4,000. Ohio lags the nation in job creation. Ohio’s middle class will tell you that trickle-down economic policies only help those at the top. Yet, instead of charting a new course that would benefit all Ohio families, the governor and the Republican majority in the legislature continue to give comfort to the comfortable and further afflict the afflicted,” said Smith.
Big Energy and Big Oil also both came out of the budget process ahead of the middle class. Instead of continuing failed tax policies, Democrats pushed for oil and gas companies to pay their fair share for extracting the state’s precious natural resources as well as much needed relief for local governments, which have seen drastic cuts to services over the last two years, resulting in the loss of some 41,000 police, fire and essential personnel positions in recent years. Although a higher severance tax was part of the executive budget proposal, Republicans in the legislature caved to the Big Oil and Gas lobby once again and kicked the proverbial can down the road by instructing a tax study committee to review the issue rather than implementing the common-sense tax reform.
In addition, large utility companies will get a $95 million windfall that will likely be passed on to consumers by utility companies.
Though failing, for-profit charter schools will receive an historic amount of taxpayer dollars to the tune of $1 billion, the budget failed to address the lack of charter accountability and transparency that has plagued the state over the last five years.
Republican lawmakers also revived memories of Senate Bill 5 by adding a provision stripping collective bargaining rights from home healthcare workers in addition to other anti-worker restrictions, which privatize a number of good-paying public sector jobs and restrict workers ability to negotiate for safe workplace conditions and fair wages.
Throughout the budget process, Democrats both in the House and Senate offered dozens of amendments to remove partisan attacks and shift legislative priorities toward public policies that benefit the middle class. Time after time, Republican leaders dismissed Democratic amendments.
With the bill’s passage, it now heads to the governor’s desk for his signature before July 1.