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Study: Bottom 60% of Ohio wage earners pay more state taxes while top 20% gets big break

Jo Ingles
Statehouse News Bureau

The Policy Matters Ohio study takes a look at income tax policy since the 2005 overhaul

Ohio’s tax policy took a major shift in 2005 when lawmakers moved away from income tax. Lower income taxes have been sold through the years by majority Republicans as a way to increase jobs and bring business to Ohio. Now, a policy group’s new study shows that shift has increased taxes for low and middle income Ohioans.

When Guille Bervejillo took a look at how Ohio’s tax policy change has affected people with different incomes, he found the tax bill for lower to lower-middle income Ohioans has actually increased.

“So the bottom 60% of tax filers have increased their tax shares over the past 17 years since Governor Taft’s 2005 budget bill and the top 1% of Ohio’s tax filers are getting an extra $51,000 that they are taking home every year which is the price of a luxury car while the top 20% of households is taking roughly $5,500 home,” Bervejillo says.

Bervejillo says Ohioans who thought they'd be in better shape with flatter taxes are finding the opposite is true.

“It’s a long trend, a long pattern, in which people have thought that by lowering taxes we are going to increase economic growth. At the end of the day, it’s wishful thinking and promises that never fully come true,” Bervejillo says.

Bervejillo says this is particularly worrisome when you consider Ohioans of color who, because of the enduring legacy of racialized oppression, are disproportionately represented in the state’s poorest quintiles. According to data from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), roughly 75% of Hispanic Ohioans and 79% of African Americans are in the 60% of Ohio households with the lowest incomes, while the number for white Ohioans is about 56%. Bervejillo says this means that Ohioans of color are significantly more likely to pay a higher share of their incomes in taxes because of recent changes to the state’s tax code, while white Ohioans are more likely to be affluent and have benefited.

Bervejillo says Ohio gets $8 billion less in revenue than it would have had the state maintained the 2005 tax structure. And to soften that blow, he says the state has increased fees for many of its services. He says those fee increases for things like licenses or filing documents hit low income Ohioans the hardest.

Majority Republicans say they'd like to lower the income tax even further. A House committee is slated to take up H.C.R. 41tomorrow. It's a resolution that would declare an intention to completely repeal the state income tax within a decade.

Contact Jo Ingles at
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