Policy Matters Blog

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)

Hunger in higher education

by Policy Matters Ohio on June 11th, 2015
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Ohio’s 12 food banks serve more than 2 million of our neighbors every year, addressing a critical need. But food aid has been cut in Ohio. Also, Ohio’s bad economy should qualify us for a statewide food stamp waiver that allows people to keep getting food stamps even if there are no work slots available for them. The Kasich administration chose not to get that statewide waiver, instead requesting the waiver only in rural counties and not in urban areas. Both policy decisions increase hunger, especially in our cities. But one place we don’t expect to find hunger is on college campuses. When I read a Wall Street Journal article on colleges launching food pantries on their campuses, I was stunned. (read more)

Frackers should pay public costs of growing industry

by Policy Matters Ohio on June 10th, 2015
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As the Ohio Senate rolls out its version of the budget for 2016 and 2017, Senate President Keith Faber tells us that the severance tax on oil and gas production they hoped to include is not yet done. “The governor’s office has been willing to negotiate and the industry has been willing to show up… and sometimes negotiate,” he said. Shale drilling is growing in Ohio, as the chart below from the United States Energy Information Administration shows. But Ohio hasn’t been able to hammer out a reasonable tax level, even though other heavy fracking states have a much higher tax on the resources that are permanently removed from the state when drilling takes place. Just look at North Dakota (11.5 percent of the value of oil), Oklahoma (7 percent on gas and oil) and Texas (7.5 percent of value of natural gas). (read more)

Awaiting the Ohio Senate’s move on taxes

by Policy Matters Ohio on June 5th, 2015
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Legislators in Columbus are heading into the stretch run of approving a two-year budget, and much of the attention has focused, as it should, on how much the Senate will add to the $1.2 billion in tax reductions approved by the House over two years. They’ll probably ramp up the tax cuts, even though that strategy has failed to boost Ohio’s job performance and has skewed the tax system more in favor of the most affluent. But when it unveils its budget Monday morning, the Senate majority also will answer another, less prominent question: Will it restore any of the measures Gov. Kasich proposed to repeal or eliminate various tax breaks? The governor proposed, and the House scrapped, reductions in a number of credits and exemptions, including: Eliminating the credit that sellers of beer, wine and mixed beverages get for paying their alcoholic beverage tax a few weeks in advance; Limiting the amounts retailers can receive for collecting the sales tax, known as the vendor discount. (read more)

Black jobs matter, too

by Policy Matters Ohio on June 3rd, 2015
In an opinion piece published today in The Plain Dealer and on Cleveland.com, our executive director Amy Hanauer and outreach coordinator Amelia Hayes discuss how the economy and jobs relate to the Black Lives Matter movement. Amy (pictured left) and Amelia wrote that we’re not experts on strategies to immediately transform relationships between communities and police. But we know part of the solution is addressing economic justice. The sadness we see in Cleveland and other cities is, yes, a cry against police brutality, but it is also the anger of a community that has been victimized by decades of economic violence, they wrote. The policies we advocate wouldn’t prevent police violence but they would begin delivering better education, jobs, and economic security. (read more)

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)