June 2009 News from Policy Matters Ohio: Saving Students, Capping Carbon, Bolstering Budgets

- June 15, 2009

Welcome Aboard – We’re thrilled to welcome Julian Rogers, Executive Director of Education Voters of Ohio, to our board of directors. Julian’s progressive leadership, keen insights, and warm personality make him a perfect addition to our board.

Honored – Policy Matters has been selected as the Member of the Year for Greater Cleveland Community Shares, a workplace giving campaign that supports social justice and social change organizations in northeast Ohio. Come to their annual event, June 19, to celebrate this great resource for greater Cleveland.

Worth Paying For –  If you knew of a program that could save more than three dollars for every dollar it spent, keep some of Ohio’s most vulnerable boys in school, reduce educational disparities and increase urban graduation rates, would you eliminate its funding or expand it? That’s the question facing Ohio policymakers this week, as we release this report documenting the costs and benefits of Ohio’s Initiative on Increasing the Graduation Rate.

How to Pay for it – The successful dropout prevention program is just one of many crucial government functions being slashed in Ohio. We took a look at Ohio’s tax expenditure report, which examines credits, deductions and exemptions in the tax code that reduce the amount of revenue the state would otherwise receive. This year’s report, prepared by the Ohio Department of Taxation, estimated that in both Fiscal Years 2010 and 2011, 122 such exemptions and credits amounted to more than $7 billion in foregone revenue to the state’s General Revenue Fund. As it struggles to fill an enormous budget gap, policy makers should limit or eliminate unnecessary credits and exemptions. Learn more in this June 2009 brief.

Strengthening Schools – Collaboration and professional development can strengthen schools, particularly if teachers are given time to participate in enhancement efforts. In interviews with 37 teachers and administrators in 18 districts, we found widespread support for the Ohio Improvement Process. What we found counters the myth of the go-it-alone leader who can single-handedly save a school without also empowering the teachers who are key to meaningful improvement. Read Leaders at Many Levels.

Assist and Adjust – Trade Adjustment Assistance, which provides income and retraining to workers who lose jobs to rising imports or overseas production shifts, will expand because of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Benefits will rise and more workers will be covered. Our May report found 20,912 Ohio jobs certified as lost to trade between January 2007 and March 2009, and an underused program, with fewer than 2,000 workers receiving training in the most recent year measured. The expansion is good – Ohio’s trade-battered communities need the help. The underuse is bad, but better outreach will allow more trade-affected workers in Ohio to benefit. Learn more here.

Capping Carbon (and reinvesting in the economy) –  Climate legislation is heating up in DC and Ohio’s federal delegation is front and center, promoting opportunity (green jobs) and protecting assets (industrial retention). To promote: Thousands of green jobs already exist in Ohio and thousands can grow from federal stimulus funds and provisions in the Waxman-Markey carbon cap. To protect: Existing industrial jobs and the household budgets of low- and moderate-income families. Energy efficiency is at the heart of both, and retooling for new energy markets is critical for keeping good jobs in Ohio. Policy Matters is making sure that jobs and energy are discussed together. Learn about the carbon cap here.

Taking Credit – In tax year 2005, more than 800,000 Ohio families received the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, a refundable tax credit for families that work but make less than $42,000. The average EITC in Ohio was $1,756, bringing more than $1.4 billion into Ohio communities. Adding a 5 percent Ohio EITC to supplement the federal credit, as 24 states have done, would cost Ohio $73 million, less than one percent of 2008 state expenditures. This report examines the EITC in Ohio and analyzes a possible state credit.

Extra Time –  The transportation budget signed by Governor Strickland in April will relieve some pain for Ohio’s jobless workers. Thousands will receive an extra 20 weeks of benefits from the federal unemployment trust fund. In tough times, we need the relief described in this brief.

Rage of Reason – Check out the great column by Pulitzer-prize winning columnist Connie Schultz, explaining to an insulted banker why some so-called “populist rage” might be justified. Read The Rage of Reason, to see what Connie and our director, Amy Hanauer, had to say about rage and (upward) redistribution.

Clawing Back –  Wal-Mart is shutting an optical lab in Lockbourne, near Columbus, eliminating 646 jobs. Our sympathies go to those workers. One small consolation for Ohio: strict provisions covering the tax credits meant that Ohio recouped $1.7 million it had given to Wal-Mart to open the plant. We’re glad Ohio has in place “clawbacks” that require companies to make good on the promises they make or pay back the incentives they’ve gotten. The General Assembly should take this opportunity to review accountability for all of Ohio’s economic development incentive programs and strengthen them as needed.

Conference on Climate – See summaries and photos from our fabulous May 18 conference on Labor and the New Energy Economy. Thanks to Sherrod Brown, Joe Rugola, Harriet Applegate and other union, political and environmental leaders for their hard work on tough conversations.

Welcome Summer Interns –  We want to welcome Cleveland Executive Fellow Jeanne Romanoff, Howard University’s Austin Thompson, Amherst College’s Alexander Hurst and Nathaniel Hopkin, CWRU’s Mirela Turc, Miami of Ohio’s Devon Washington, Harvard’s Eric Lu, Northwestern’s Kevin Rinz, and Ohio University’s Julie Van Wagenen. Ongoing thanks to Tim Krueger (that was his work on the school retention program) and Sapna Mehta. This bright, energetic crew is reviving the office atmosphere.

That’s all!
The Policy Matters Ohio Team 

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