Securing Ohio’s Future (SOF) is a social welfare organization under Sec. 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code, created to help identify and develop long-term conservative public policy solutions. Securing Ohio’s Future will utilize a combination of education and advocacy strategies to research and promote issues such as jobs and the economy, drug abuse and crime, workforce and education, and identify both issues and solutions that matter most to the people of Ohio.

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A brighter future for Ohio starts by giving Ohioans hope that they can achieve their dreams and provide a better life for their families by increasing job opportunities, keeping taxes low, opposing needless regulations, and fighting the opioid epidemic.

February of 2010 marked the peak of the Great Recession. At that time, Ohio’s unemployment rate was over ten percent, higher than the national average and the highest it had been in over twenty years. In the eight years since, Ohio has experienced a great recovery, adding nearly four hundred thousand jobs and cutting the unemployment rate to 4.9 percent at the end of 2016, nearly on par with the national average.

While this is no doubt an improvement, these unemployment figures do not paint the full picture. The number of Ohioans employed still has not returned to pre-recession levels, and the pace of job growth has slowed in recent years. In addition, Ohio has seen subpar population growth and the state’s median household income remains below the national average.

When businesses look to start or expand operations, one of their first considerations is finding a location that will best suit their needs. Routinely, states that foster a business-friendly tax and regulatory landscape see increased growth, while states with onerous taxes and regulations see businesses relocate. It is no coincidence that nearly all the states with lower than average population growth also have some of the highest state and local tax burdens in the nation.

While a business friendly tax and regulatory landscape is critical, it is difficult to grow jobs without also developing a highly skilled workforce to fill those jobs. Exposing Ohio’s students to job training programs and Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)-based curricula early and often will help develop the skills needed to prepare Ohio’s students for jobs in the 21st century workforce. The US Department of Education predicts that STEM-based jobs will increase at dramatically higher rates than non-STEM occupations, and focusing Ohio’s job training programs and school curricula towards these new jobs will help attract business and grow jobs throughout the state.

Ohio must take an “all of the above” approach to job creation by implementing proven pro-business policies like lower, simplified taxes and job training programs that reflect the 21st century economy, while also considering other creative solutions that can address this issue. We plan to study this issue extensively, so we can provide state leaders with answers for how to grow Ohio’s jobs.

Ohio first implemented its state income tax in 1972 with a total of six tax brackets, each with progressively higher rates as an individual’s income increased. Over the years, Ohio has added an additional three brackets, for a total of nine under current law with a top marginal rate of just under 5% currently, which is higher than the national average of 4.65%. Ohio’s nine brackets put the state behind only California and Missouri, each of which have ten brackets, in tax code complexity. In comparison, three of Ohio’s neighboring states (Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Michigan) have just one flat tax rate regardless of taxable income level. In addition to these nine brackets, Ohio has over thirty possible credits and deductions taxpayers can utilize, which have helped grow the length of Ohio’s personal income tax form from not even a full page when it was implemented in 1972, to six full pages today. Finally, Ohio is one of a handful of states with local income taxes imposed by over 700 various cities, towns, and villages. Ohio is second only to Pennsylvania in the number of local tax jurisdictions by state. While the personal income tax laws of Ohio obviously affect all Ohio taxpayers, they are also critically important to the thousands of sole proprietorships, LLC’s, LLP’s, and S-corporations whose taxes are calculated based on the owner’s individual return.

Meanwhile, the federal tax code is over 2,600 pages long and contains more words than the Bible. In addition to the code itself, there are thousands of IRS rules and regulations taxpayers must comply with as well, exponentially increasing the number of pages. Add this to Ohio’s state and local tax codes with their myriad of exemptions, deductions, and rebates, and it is no wonder why various estimates have shown the act of merely filing taxes costs Americans approximately six billion hours and over $20 billion annually.

In addition to personal taxes, Ohio has two other key tax provisions to consider: the Commercial Activity Tax (CAT) and the Severance Tax. The CAT was implemented in 2005 as a way to replace the revenue lost from repealing the personal property and corporation franchise taxes. The CAT is a gross receipts tax and with a few notable exceptions, any business with annual gross receipts over $150,000 is subject to this tax that has been described by the Ohio Department of Taxation as a tax on the “privilege of doing business in Ohio.” Gross receipts taxes like the CAT have been criticized by economists for causing higher prices for consumers and punishing high volume, low margin businesses that must pay a tax on each sale, further tightening their margins. Currently, Ohio is one of only five states nationwide with a gross receipts tax, and three of its neighbors (Indiana, Kentucky, and Michigan) have repealed such taxes in recent years.

The severance tax is a tax imposed exclusively on the extraction of oil and gas from the ground in Ohio. Under current law, Ohio’s severance tax is 20 cents per barrel of oil and 3 cents per MCF (thousand cubic feet) of natural gas. In recent years, Governor Kasich has proposed changing the severance tax to a percentage rate that would increase the overall tax paid, however these proposals have been routinely defeated in the state legislature. Oil and gas companies have opposed these rate increases, which they argue would lead to decreased production and would discourage further investment in Ohio.

Thanks to the complexity of Ohio’s personal tax code (which impacts many businesses as well), the CAT, and the Severance Tax, Ohio was ranked the 45th best state in which to do business in 2017 by the Tax Foundation. In order to make Ohio more competitive, the tax code must be simplified so that it will be easier to understand and as a result, attract increased business investment in Ohio. Along with simplifying the code generally, the state must also consider reducing and simplifying or outright repealing the Commercial Activity Tax to further improve Ohio’s business climate and help the state compete with its neighbors. These reforms will require tough decisions: Ohio’s budget must balance and any reduction in tax revenue must therefore be offset by reduced spending or increased growth, but by creating a more competitive and business friendly tax code, Ohio can further cement its status as a great place to raise a family and operate a business.

The ever-expanding web of regulations that businesses face at the state and federal level presents not only headaches, but serious costs: numerous independent estimates have put the annual cost of regulatory compliance alone at nearly $2 trillion, larger than the combined corporate and individual tax revenue collected by the IRS each year. In 2015, the Federal Register reached a new record length of 82,036 pages of regulations, including over 3,000 new rules finalized in 2015 alone, further increasing the compliance burden on businesses small and large. According to the annual National Federation of Independent Business “Problems and Priorities” survey, small business owners cited “unreasonable government regulations” as the second most critical problem they face, behind only the rising cost of health insurance.

Unfortunately, the growing regulatory burden has hit Ohio harder than most. Ohio is blessed to be one of the nation’s leading manufacturing states, and one of the handful of states producing natural gas. However, these industries have been subject to some of the greatest increases in regulation. The EPA alone has published nearly four thousand rules in the last eight years, driving compliance costs through the roof. Businesses need a sensible, predictable regulatory framework in order to invest and grow, rather than the convoluted and overly burdensome patchwork of regulations currently in place.

The opioid epidemic stats are sobering and there are too many to mention: approximately 60,000 Americans died last year as the result of a drug overdose, the deadliest year ever and 20% higher than the year before. Drug overdose is now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50, and in Ohio, overdoses account for 30 deaths per every 10,000 residents. Just last year, over 4,000 Ohioans died from a drug overdose, more than the total number killed on September 11th.

The opioid epidemic has shown no signs of stopping, and unfortunately Ohio is on the frontlines of this fight. Ohio has one of the highest drug overdose death rates in the country and of those deaths, nearly 80% were caused by opioids. The cause of this epidemic is clear: the number of opioids prescribing has skyrocketed over the last 20 years, making these highly addictive pills far too accessible. This has also led to a corresponding increase in addiction to heroin and other cheaper and deadlier alternatives.

In addition to the tragic loss of life, this epidemic has other costs as well: jails and emergency rooms are overflowing and have become detox centers, the foster care system is overwhelmed with children whose parents have abused drugs, and county coroner’s offices cannot keep up with the bodies. The epidemic has hurt economic recovery as well, as many employers now report they have open jobs but cannot find employees that can pass a drug test and reliably show up for work.

The opioid epidemic is one of, if not the, greatest public health crisis we have ever faced as a nation, and there are no easy solutions to this complex a problem. The solutions must address both sides of this issue: preventing new users by stemming the overprescribing of opioids in the first place, while also working to provide robust treatment resources to help those currently afflicted. Addressing one without the other will not fix this problem. We are hopeful that, thanks to some of the efforts already underway in Ohio, we will be able to defeat this epidemic once and for all.


Step 1 of 9 - Question #1

  • 1. Do you feel that things in Ohio are going in the right direction, or do you feel things have gotten off on the wrong track? (Select One)


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