Our legislators are working on a state budget that will spend nearly $70 BILLION over two years.
Once again, it calls for income tax cuts that mainly help the rich. The plan would cut income tax rates across the board and reduce the number of tax brackets from 9 to 5, which only benefits those with the greatest ability to pay.
To cover the $3.1 billion costs of these tax cuts, Ohio’s sales tax, cigarette tax, beer and wine taxes, and oil and gas severance tax rates would go up. Ohioans will be asked to pay new taxes on cable subscriptions, yard work and home decorating, among other things.
There are better ways to spend our tax money. If you think Ohio’s priorities are out of whack, call your legislators and urge them to scrap tax cuts for the few and invest in things that will improve the quality of life for many Ohioans. With help from Policy Matters Ohio and other allies, we’ve come up with a list of things that should take priority over more tax cuts. They include:
Addressing the drug epidemic and mental health crisis: Ohio ranks No. 1 nationally in opioid deaths and now has a shortage of treatment options for people who are addicts or severely mentally ill. Experts developed a plan to create 15 crisis centers with 240 more beds with supportive community services. It would cost $30 million a year.
Easing hunger: Ohio’s poverty rate remains near recession levels and its recovery continues to lag the national recovery. The Ohio Association of Foodbanks meets a crucial need by providing food to those who are hungry. It also conducts offers programs that keep kids from being hungry on weekends, holidays and months that school lunches are not served. About $30 million per year would help feed Ohio’s hungry.
Restoring school staffing. Ohio’s public schools were ranked No. 5 nationally by Education Week in 2010. Since then, they’ve dropped to 23rd, and lost 40 percent of their librarians, 12 percent of art, music and gym teachers and 4 percent of school counselors and social workers. For $186 million annually, we could better prepare of kids for brighter futures and create 3,200 new jobs.
Increasing access to birth control that works. Instead of working to close more abortion clinics and erect more obstacles for women seeking abortion services, Ohio should follow Colorado’s lead and boost access to family planning services. Colorado reported a 40 percent drop in teen births over five years, courtesy of a program that provides IUDs and other implants at no or low cost. Research shows that unintended pregnancies can lead to birth defects, low birth weight babies, maternal depression and infant mortality. Ohio has one of the nation’s worst infant mortality rates.
Making our drinking water safe to drink. News continues to break about unsafe drinking water. Residents of Sebring, Ohio, recently discovered they were potentially drinking lead-contaminated water for months without notification from the village. In 2016, we learned of documented cases of drinking water contamination from fracking and that this growing industry in Ohio threatens drinking water supplies at every stage of the fracking process.
To address this, we need increased monitoring of contaminants and improved access to public water system monitoring data to ensure transparency and accountability to Ohio communities. This takes changes to the law and increased financial resources to allow local communities to protect their residents. Instead and advocating for ways to improve the water we drink, Gov. Kasich’s proposed budget calls for defunding the Drinking Water Solutions Fund that provides those very loans to public and private water systems.