July 2009 News from Policy Matters Ohio: Budget, Biden, Recession, Rent-to-Own

- July 15, 2009

Budget blues – Like many others, Policy Matters was deeply disappointed in the state budget. The dismal economy, combined with refusal to consider raising taxes, resulted in devastating cuts to mental health, early childhood, child abuse prevention and other essentials. We weighed in with ways to restore revenue in editorials, here and here. There were some good elements of the budget – some education reform, smaller cuts to libraries than initially threatened, and expansions of health care coverage – but stories of the suffering have already begun rolling in, and the end result will be a less prosperous, equitable and sustainable state.

Rent to Own – For customers with limited savings, rent-to-own stores offer a tempting way to obtain appliances and furniture immediately but shoppers usually ultimately pay a price that is several times the worth of the item. A recently released Policy Matters study found that rent-to-own stores charge up to 4.5 times what is charged in regular retail stores for items like stoves, refrigerators and washer-dryers. The paper surveys local rent- to-own stores, maps these stores in Ohio, compares prices to those in retail stores, and compares Ohio law to the law in other states. Ohio ranks third in the country in number of these stores. We got good coverage of the paper, which ends with proposals to better protect Ohio consumers.

Countering the recession –  The federal stimulus act is paying extended or extra unemployment compensation benefits to hundreds of thousands of Ohioans and adding $30 million to the state economy each week. At the same time, it also is saving money for the state and Ohio’s employers. This report details the ways in which the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is bolstering families and communities across Ohio through new and expanded UC programs. At the same time, it notes there is more Ohio can do to take advantage of the act.

Maximum IMPACT – The carbon cap that passed the U.S. House of Representatives in June can reduce use of polluting energy, increase use of renewables, and improve our efficiency. Happily for Ohio and for manufacturing, it also includes provisions to capture new green markets, to clean up manufacturing processes, and to help energy-intensive firms transition to a green economy. Senator Sherrod Brown introduced manufacturing supports as a separate Senate bill, then Ohio Congressmen John Boccieri and Zach Space made sure they were included in the carbon cap. This briefing paper provides a county-by-county interactive map of the more than 3,000 firms (with more than 250,000 current workers), that could tap into new green markets with this help. A second interactive map highlights energy intensive firms that could get help cleaning their processes. A related paper outlines key provisions of the bill that will help domestic manufacturers capture new markets and create and retain jobs.

Seniors Speak – Our research director Zach Schiller will join Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, several U.S. senate candidates and others at a breakfast forum on issues facing older Ohioans on Thursday August 13 from 8:30 a.m. to noon at the Warrensville Heights Senior and Civic Center on 4567 Green Road. Questions? Call Wynne at 216-881-7200.

Go Joe – Policy Matters executive director Amy Hanauer, board member Sue Helper, and various high level officials met with Vice President Joe Biden as part of his middle class task force initiative. Hanauer and Helper presented ideas to promote American manufacturing and restore good jobs to Ohio communities. Held at Willard and Kelsey Solar Group, a research and manufacturing plant near Toledo, the discussion highlighted how progressive energy policy can generate good jobs, reduce the use of polluting and foreign fuel, and promote a more stable environment and economy. 

That’s all!
The Policy Matters Ohio Team 

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