Policy Matters Blog

The benefits of a graduated income tax

by Policy Matters Ohio on July 20th, 2015
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The Ohio General Assembly has taught us a lesson about the benefits of the graduated income tax. Earlier this month, The Plain Dealer reported  that many business owners would wind up paying higher income taxes for 2015 despite a provision in the state budget bill that significantly expands a tax break for this same group. A spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Taxation called it one of the inevitable “anomalous impacts” that happen when there are changes in the tax code. But while the policy might have been inadvertent, its results were exactly what you would expect when you replace a graduated tax with a flat one: People with low incomes pay more. Here’s how it works in this case: For 2015, the tax break will allow owners to deduct the first 75 percent of their first $250,000 in business income. (read more)

Lawmakers should close loopholes for travel sites

by Policy Matters Ohio on July 13th, 2015
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Have you ever booked a hotel room in Ohio online through a business like Expedia or Priceline? You may be surprised to learn that online travel companies like these get to pay less in taxes to state and local governments for your room booking than the hotel itself would if you had booked directly. Out-of-date state laws governing the state sales tax and local lodging taxes, which don’t account for the recent development of online travel companies, allow them to keep a few extra dollars for themselves with every hotel booking they make. This needs to change—and the issue is getting deserved attention in Columbus. Michael Mazerov of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains why online companies typically don’t pay as much in taxes for a room rental as hotels do. (read more)

Guest blogger: Protecting pregnant workers is a must

by Policy Matters Ohio on July 10th, 2015
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No woman should ever have to choose between her job and her pregnancy. But that’s the choice some expectant mothers in Ohio are facing right now. As a working mom of two young girls, I know firsthand the challenges women face in balancing their career, their family and all of life’s competing priorities. But too many women in Ohio carry an unthinkable burden that no mother should have to bear — pregnancy discrimination. Thanks to inadequate federal protection and no state law, it’s legal in Ohio to deny pregnant women reasonable workplace accommodations that let them work safely as they carry a child. Temporary relief from heavy lifting, being able to sit for a few minutes every couple of hours, or being able to go to the bathroom when you need to are basic things pregnant women need on the job, but all too often do not receive. (read more)

Real predators don’t have fins

by Policy Matters Ohio on July 8th, 2015
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With the media frenzy over Shark Week, it’s easy to forget the real predators lurking in our communities: Payday loan sharks. On average, sharks in the ocean injure 15 people per year, but payday loan sharks bleed $7 billion in fees out of more than 12 million hard-working Americans struggling to make ends meet. All payday loans have a few things in common: Outrageous triple digit interest rates (600% APR or higher in Ohio), steep fees and a deceptive structure that’s designed to keep borrowers trapped in a cycle of debt and desperation for months. Since the 1990’s, Ohio has allowed small dollar short-term lending. Since then, payday lending has exploded. One in 10 Ohioans has had a payday loan. (read more)

The benefits of Medicaid expansion

by Policy Matters Ohio on July 7th, 2015
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We agree with Gov. John Kasich that expanding Medicaid health insurance to cover working-poor adults ultimately saves money (not to mention it improves health). Evidence of the benefits continue to accumulate. A new study published today in Health Affairs – a leading medical journal on health-care policy – shows a Medicaid-like plan in Cleveland improved care and health outcomes. And the cost was significantly below the amount allowed by the federal government. The study involved 28,295 poor patients enrolled in a Medicaid expansion project before Medicaid expansion actually started in Ohio in 2014. The patients had been uninsured and were enrolled in the MetroHealth Care Plus program starting in 2013. MetroHealth and two other Cuyahoga County health systems cared for the patients in collaboration with the Better Health Partnership, a Cleveland-area health-care quality organization. (read more)

Here’s why the state budget is a bad deal for most Ohioans

by Policy Matters Ohio on July 1st, 2015
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The two-year budget that Gov. Kasich signed into law yesterday takes crucial state resources and transfers them to affluent Ohioans, instead of using them to invest in the state and our people. Close to $2 billion in income-tax cuts will go primarily to the wealthy. At the same time, many schools are flat-funded; key work supports like childcare remain sorely underfunded; human services to protect children and the elderly are inadequate; critical health services like family planning (which helps reduce infant mortality) are reduced; and local governments see new cuts. At a time when resources are available for these and other priorities, this budget is a missed opportunity. Gov. Kasich’s vetoes are a mixed bag. He got rid of some special-interest tax breaks but also made new cuts to schools, eliminated Health Hubs (which improve health in underserved communities through intensive care coordination), and removed legislative oversight when state facilities serving the developmentally disabled are closed. (read more)

Good news, bad news on health care

by Policy Matters Ohio on June 26th, 2015
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A good ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court upholds provisions of the Affordable Care Act that help people pay for health insurance. But some onerous provisions in the state’s Medicaid program cleared the state’s budget conference committee and appear headed for the governor’s signature. Here’s a quick overview of yesterday’s good news for health on the national level, bad news on the state front. Good news: The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land. A lawsuit challenged the ability of the federal government to help people afford insurance in states like Ohio, where the state declined to administer its own health insurance marketplace. The Supreme Court denied the challenge. Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the court, stated: “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them.” The ruling clarified that federal tax credits can be used to help people afford health insurance in all states. (read more)

Greenway an investment in Cleveland’s future

by Policy Matters Ohio on June 23rd, 2015
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What do millennials want in a city? According to a City Lab report, there are a few key things: Good schools and parks, walkability and multiple transportation options. With universities like Case Western Reserve and Cleveland State in our backyard and many of the Metroparks a short drive away, Cleveland should be a hub for young professionals. While it is true that our universities bring many young people to the city, Cleveland — and Ohio — still fall miserably short when it comes to providing a variety of public transit options. One project, however, has the potential to both expand alternative transportation options and promote urban green space within Cleveland. The Rotary Club’s proposed Red Line Greenway hopes to be the much-needed catalyst towards a more walkable, equitable city. (read more)

A needed boost for workers

by Policy Matters Ohio on June 18th, 2015
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The wait for a federal increase in the salary level that would require employers to pay overtime appears to be coming to an end. The change would be good news for millions of workers who are not eligible for overtime for working more than 40 hours a week. Most employers are required to pay overtime to most all hourly workers, regardless of total wages. But for exempt employees who are paid a salary, employers must pay overtime (time and a half) only to those earning below $23,660 a year—a threshold that has only been changed once since 1975, according to NPR. Last year, President Obama issued a memo that urged the Department of Labor to update the threshold. Several news outlets are reporting that the long-awaited announcement is coming soon. (read more)

The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker… and the golf course operator

by Policy Matters Ohio on June 16th, 2015
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It’s tax break time in the Statehouse. The biennial state budget is often stuffed with special-interest provisions, and this year is no exception. One intriguing example: A proposed tax break clearly tailored to a single unnamed business complex. It is for a company that delivers parts or finished goods of  “a personal care, health, or beauty product or an aromatic product, including a candle” to another company in the same supply chain. The two companies must “systematically collaborate and coordinate business operations with a retailer…” Oh, and they also have to be located in the same parcel or parcels of land totaling between 100 and 500 acres and in a county with between 150,000 and 200,000 people (of which there are six). (read more)