Ohio's largest business organization outlines blueprint for the state's economic future
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce has come up with a comprehensive report that it says will help improve the state's business climate.
The report looked at data in Ohio and compared it with other states. It keyed in on six separate areas including education, quality of life, taxes, business friendliness, innovation, and infrastructure.
The report also made recommendations for ways to improve Ohio's business climate and competitiveness.
Steve Stivers, Ohio Chamber of Commerce president and CEO, said the recommendations include teaching more computer skills like coding in high schools, making affordable housing and health care more accessible, increasing venture capital, improving infrastructure, and reducing regulations.
Another key recommendation included reforming Ohio's tax structure when it comes to local taxes.
"We are not advocating to cut the opportunity or income of our local government partners. We are saying there might be a different way or better way to fund local governments," Stivers said.
Just over 10 years ago, Ohio's local governments used to get substantial funds from the state. But former Gov. John Kasich, a Republican, slashed state money for local government funds by 25% in 2012 and 50% in 2013.
In a 2019 report from Policy Matters Ohio, between 2006 and 2018, local governments lost $1.4 billion a year, adjusted for inflation, through cuts in state aid and loss of local tax revenues reduced or eliminated by the state.
That report showed the cuts at the state level put more strain on local taxpayers. Stivers said he thinks local governments and the state should work together now to come up with viable options but he understands why local governments might be a little leery.
"I know that after the previous administration, they don't exactly trust the state and local government fund because it got cut during the Kasich administration multiple times but we want to have that conversation," Stivers said.
Stivers said there are 848 taxing jurisdictions that don't necessarily define income the same way. Stivers said simplifying the administrative procedures, creating one definition of income, and then one filing destination for businesses, would ease the administrative burden.
But not everyone who examines Ohio's tax policy agrees. Zach Schiller, research director for Policy Matters said Ohio's state and local taxes on business are already low.
"State and local taxes on business is Ohio are well below the national average, according to a study by Ernst & Young done for the Council on State Taxation, a group that lobbies on state taxes for big businesses. The study notes that in Fiscal Year 2020, average state and local business taxes per employee were $4,800 in Ohio, compared to a national average of $6,500. The analysis also shows Ohio is lower in such taxes as a share of private-sector Gross State Product (3.8% vs. 4.5%)," Schiller said.
Schiller said the chamber should be pledging to ensure that business pays its fair share so we can support educational and workforce training programs, as well as attend to our myriad of other needs.
Rick Carfagna, a Republican former Ohio lawmaker, who is now senior vice president for government affairs for the Ohio Chamber, said the Ohio Legislature has taken some steps to improve the state's business climate by cutting regulations and red tape.
Carfagna said there is more that can be done. But he said the new blueprint has a lot of recommendations that don't require new programs or big changes.
"We don't have to re-invent the wheel on these things but we do need to monitor them and make sure they are being calibrated to do as desired," Carfagna said.