Policy Matters Blog

No justice in the prison industry

by Policy Matters Ohio on May 28th, 2015
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The footprint of the for-profit prison industry is growing ever larger, and a recent Washington Post article helps explain why. The two largest prison companies in the United States and their associates have funneled more than $10 million to political campaigns and spent almost $25 million lobbying, according to the Post. What do they want for that money? Laws that keep their prisons full. One of those companies is Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). In 2011, Ohio sold the Lake Erie Correctional Institute in Conneaut to CCA. The results have been disastrous. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio exposed the flaws of the CCA-owned prison in a film, “Prisons for Profit: 18 Months in the Life of the Nation’s First Prison Sold for Profit,” which premiered at the Cleveland International Film Festival in March. (read more)

Gesturing enthusiasm for public policy

by Policy Matters Ohio on May 20th, 2015
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I’m committed to Ohio, but I still talk with my hands like the Jersey girl I grew up as. Especially when talking about things I really care about, as in this TEDx talk I gave earlier this year, organized and captured on video by some amazing high school students. The next generation leaders who created the event asked us to talk about curiosity. Naturally, the thing I think everyone should be more curious about is policy. I urged the mostly young audience to ask the questions that some people in power might not want asked. What does policy have to do with how much exercise we get? How clean our air and water are? How much we’re paid? How does policy affect how many of us are in prison? (read more)

So-Called Right to Work and the next generation

by Policy Matters Ohio on May 19th, 2015
Many of us who fight for workers’ rights and good jobs know that So-Called Right-to-Work (SCRTW) is wrong for workers. SCRTW laws allow workers in unionized businesses to benefit from a union contract without paying union dues. It’s like allowing someone to belong to a health club without paying membership fees – of course, some will take advantage of the offer. The problem for the health club is that, with less membership fees, it’s harder to keep up the equipment or pay the trainer. It’s the same with a union, which won’t be able to maintain the staff needed to negotiate a good contract or provide other services to members. These laws are designed to weaken unions and they do. A rigorous study, published in 2011, found that SCRTW reduced wages and cut health care and pensions for union and non-union workers. (read more)

The Kansas lesson on tax breaks

by Policy Matters Ohio on May 14th, 2015
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As Ohio state legislators consider whether to expand a major business tax break first approved two years ago, they might want to pay attention to what a number of Kansas Republicans have concluded: That an even more expansive tax break of the same kind passed by their state legislature hasn’t worked. The Kansas tax break permits owners of what are known as “passthrough” businesses to avoid paying any income tax at all on profits from those businesses (they’re called “passthroughs” because their owners are taxed on the income when it passes through to them as individuals). Problem is, it and other income-tax cuts haven’t been the shot of adrenaline to the Sunflower State’s economy that Gov. Sam Brownback predicted. And they have opened up a $420 million budget hole that legislators are scrambling to fill. (read more)

FirstEnergy lines up on the wrong side

by Policy Matters Ohio on May 12th, 2015
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A legislative committee this week is meeting to study whether consumers benefit from Ohio clean-energy standards, which lawmakers put on hold last summer. Spoiler alert: Consumers do benefit. Self-reported studies from Ohio’s four major utilities show that consumers have already saved over $1 billion. But FirstEnergy Corp., the utility whose lobbying efforts succeeded in pushing the freeze through the legislature last year, was in the capitol last week to ask the legislative committee to recommend the clean-energy standards’ repeal. Policy Matters Ohio reported this year that the clean-energy freeze would hurt Ohio electric consumers. This year, the Ohio Public Utilities Commission shut down attempts by two Ohio utilities to shift operating losses from their deregulated plants onto Ohio consumers, likely forestalling a similar plan by FirstEnergy. (read more)

Lawmakers, show mothers you care

by Policy Matters Ohio on May 7th, 2015
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With Mother’s Day approaching, it’s a good time to recognize the needs of many working mothers who struggle to make ends meet. We have two important programs designed to help working moms and their families: The earned income tax credit (EITC) and the child tax credit (CTC). Congress and Ohio lawmakers can help Ohio moms by making key improvements to these tax credits. In 2012, more than 670,000 Ohio mothers claimed the federal EITC and child-tax credit. These credits increase wages and reduce poverty by offsetting payroll and income taxes. They help struggling mothers pay for food, housing, child care and transportation. These credits have long-term benefits for women and their children, research shows. Children in families that receive tax credits have better health, educational, economic and long-term employment outcomes. (read more)

Health and human services lose out

by Policy Matters Ohio on May 4th, 2015
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Ten years ago, lawmakers started chopping away at certain business taxes with the promise that lost revenue we depend on for parks, schools, mental health services and libraries would be replaced. They set up a plan to temporarily reimburse local governments for the lost tax revenue through payment of  “tax reimbursements” and said economic growth would ultimately patch the hole. But the economic renaissance never happened, and now lawmakers are poised to further cut tax reimbursements in the budget bill. The upshot is that health and human services are left deep in the hole, on track to lose millions. House Bill 64, the budget bill under discussion at Capital Square, will chop state aid to senior services levies by $3.7 million. (read more)

The struggles of part-time faculty

by Policy Matters Ohio on April 30th, 2015
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Part-time faculty at colleges and universities work under some pretty surprising conditions. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that nearly 40 percent of part-time faculty in Ohio are living at or near poverty. Often these educators are paid little and receive no benefits and have no job security. Even from one semester to the next, their work can be unpredictable. That leads to yet another battle for part-time instructors over unemployment compensation (UC). Many part-timers – also known as adjunct professors — do not apply for unemployment even though they may be eligible for benefits. Part of the confusion is because special UC rules apply to school employees. Even if they meet the basic UC eligibility requirements, education employees do not qualify if they have “reasonable assurance” of returning to the same or a similar job in the next term. (read more)

Aged out and at risk

by Policy Matters Ohio on April 27th, 2015
As a research intern at Policy Matters Ohio, Brant Duda looked into expanding supports for foster-care youth to age 21. Brant brought a special perspective to the topic: He was a foster child who found himself on his own at age 18. Now pursuing a master’s degree in social work, Brant wrote an opinion piece weaving together his personal experience, the many risks faced by 18 year olds aging out of the foster system, and details about much-needed legislation (House Bill 50) that would bring Ohio in line with other states that provide services until age 21. His op-ed article appeared in The Plain Dealer Sunday and can be found here. “As a foster youth, becoming a legal adult meant I finally had choices over my life, and children’s services could no longer tell me what to do,” Brant wrote. (read more)

Big trouble ahead with trade deal

by Policy Matters Ohio on April 22nd, 2015
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The TPP stands for the Trans Pacific Partnership, a deal that is being negotiated between 12 countries, including the United States. If you’re worried about what NAFTA has done to the United States, you should be especially worried about the TPP. The deal would expand NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement), which would make it the largest free-trade agreement in history. Last week, Congress introduced a TPP Fast Track bill that is concerning. The TPP will have a huge effect on the offshoring of U.S. service and manufacturing jobs. According to the Economic Policy Institute, under NAFTA the nation lost nearly 700,000 jobs by 2010. Tariff cuts continuously result in trade deficits and a loss of jobs. Our safety regulations on food safety and labeling could be threatened by the TPP. (read more)