May 2008 News from Policy Matters Ohio: Payday!

- May 20, 2008

Payday! – Wednesday, April 30th, the Ohio House of Representatives surprised everyone by passing comprehensive reform to exploitative payday lending. Instead of the 391% annual interest that the industry had been charging, they’ll be limited to a more reasonable 28% rate if the bill gets through the Senate and is signed. The Governor has voiced his strong support, and the Senate, with bipartisan sponsorship, seems likely to back the measure. Policy Matters has called for reforms like these and documented the rise in payday lending in a series of reports, the most recent here. Credit for passing this first hurdle goes to the Ohio Coalition for Responsible Lending for its forceful advocacy.

Getting Greener – In another victory last week, Governor Strickland signed into law a bill that will make Ohio more environmentally-friendly and energy independent, by requiring that 12.5% of the energy we use comes from renewable sources by 2025. As the Ohio partner to the national Apollo Alliance, we’ve argued for years that reforms like this will create jobs and reduce dependence on foreign and polluting forms of energy. This is one small step for Ohio, part of a necessary giant leap toward economic and environmental sustainability.

Health Care Hardship –  Ohioans who don’t get health care coverage through their employer are hard-pressed to purchase it on their own. Reasonable costs: What can Ohioans afford to pay for health care? looks at family budgets in Ohio and concludes that a family of three has to earn about $38,000 before it can contribute toward health care without sacrificing other essentials. Released in conjunction with the Ohio Consumers for Health Coverage, the report sheds light on why the growing costs for premiums, co-pays, prescriptions and insurance itself is out of reach for many families.

Ohio Income Options – Ohio faces a budget shortfall, but the state keeps cutting income taxes. As a result, we don’t have enough revenue to fund our public services. The state is cutting mental health services, career centers that deliver adult training, and support for school districts to purchase buses, among other essentials. Most of the income tax cuts flow to high-income households. Read why we could get back more than $375 million in revenue just by restoring original tax rates on the portion of family income above $200,000.

What We’re Reading (and writing) –  A new book, Keeping the Promise? The Debate over Charter Schools, is a wide-ranging and thought-provoking collection of essays published by Rethinking Schools in collaboration with the Center for Community Change. Authors, including Policy Matters Ohio director Amy Hanauer and nationally known educators Ted Sizer and Linda Darling-Hammond, examine the charter school movement’s founding visions, on-the-ground realities, and untapped potential.

Foreclosure Facts – There were more than 84,000 new foreclosure filings in Ohio last year, a 6.7 percent increase over the year before. Filings grew by double-digit rates in 39 of Ohio’s 88 counties, and have more than quintupled statewide since 1995. Cuyahoga County led the state once again in foreclosures filings per person, followed by Montgomery, Summit and Lucas counties.

Pulling Apart –  The gap between the richest and the middle grew in Ohio over the past two decades, as it did in the country as a whole, according to a report by the Economic Policy Institute and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Families in the richest five percent now earn nine times as much as families in the bottom 20 percent and have added more than $44,000 to their annual incomes since the mid-1980s, dwarfing what low- and middle-income families have added to their paychecks.

Seven years of job slack – Ohio and Michigan are the only two states in the country that do not have as many jobs as they did when the last recession started seven years ago. Since then, Ohio has lost almost 175,000 jobs, or 3.1 percent of its total. The nation has actually been shedding jobs faster than Ohio over the past three months, but that’s hardly consolation. Learn more here.

Testify –  Policy Matters testified on the Ohio Senate’s special education voucher proposal, noting that Ohio’s autism voucher is not an effective policy model, and arguing for a more comprehensive solution to the challenges of educating children with disabilities.

You might have missed – Policy Matters has weighed in on light bulbs & lending; education, employment & energy; training & taxes; budgets & basics. Check our home page regularly so you don’t miss out.

That’s all!
The Policy Matters Ohio Team 

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