New Year’s policy prescriptions

Policy Matters Ohio - December 28, 2011
Beyond the boom – Our latest report looks at the public costs of the anticipated shale-gas drilling boom in Ohio and recommends raising the state’s severance tax – levied on mineral extraction – to help cover new spending for roads, schools and other services the drilling boom will require. Boosting the tax to rates similar to those charged by some neighboring states would bring in an estimated $538 million over the next four years of skyrocketing natural gas production forecast by the industry, and could also defray costs of likely environmental damage caused by hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” Our report came out on the heels of a study from Ohio State Universitythat downgraded the official estimate of Ohio jobs that would be created by fracking to 20,000 from 200,000.

A few hours after we released our report, Ohio Gov. John Kasich told reporters that he was considering an impact tax as well as changes to the severance tax. Coincidence? Or the result of Policy Matters making our voice heard? We’ll let you decide!
Nothing to crow about – Along with everybody else, we’ve been keeping an eye on the Ohio jobs picture. But we occasionally come to different conclusions than some of our friends in Columbus, and December was no exception. Even as Gov. Kasich was touting new jobs figures that showed the largest month-to-month drop in Ohio’s unemployment rate in decades, our recent JobWatch report carefully explained that the decrease happened because so many Ohioans have given up looking for work. As this article in the Plain Dealer explained, we stuck to our nonpartisan approach and “threw cold water on both Republicans and Democrats.” (The latter claimed credit for President Barack Obama’s job creation policies.)
Bad idea – Ohio’s ongoing prison privatization efforts continue to be based on questionable assumptions about costs and savings, according to our second report on the subject this year. We found that Ohioans have a right to be skeptical about claimed savings, as our analysis suggests that privatization moves involving three state facilities, announced in September, could end up costing the state more, rather than saving scarce taxpayer dollars.
Hollowing out the middle class? – Our analysis found a shrinking share of jobs in Ohio that require more than a high-school diploma but less than a four-year college degree. This shoul d be viewed as a call to action to boost educational attainment and to directly address our sluggish economy; Ohio can reverse course by investing in training and jobs for the middle-class economy
Have a stimulating new year… On January 1, Ohio’s minimum wage will increase 30 cents to $7.70 an hour, thanks to the state’s voters who approved a 2006 constitutional amendment that provides for annual rate adjustments. The raise will benefit some 347,000 workers in Ohio, and will add up to an extra $624 per year in wages for a full-time minimum wage worker. More Ohio workers will be directly affected by this increase than in any of the other states seeing a boost, according to an analysis by the Economic Policy Institute, which we co-released in Ohio.
… and let’s be good (or at least better) – Ohio is among the many states that fail to leverage corporate subsidies for good jobs, according to this analysis by the national group Good Jobs First. The state ranked 33rd among states on performance and job quality standards for companies that get financial incentives to re-locate to or stay in the state. Along with our national partner, we recommend that the state insist that all subsidized firms create good jobs with family supporting wages and good benefits.
Home stretch for $50K – 4 more days + 4 more minutes + 4 more votes = $50,000 to help low- and middle-income Ohio families save money and avoid financial exploitation. Go to, sign up and vote for Policy Matters Ohio. Also text the code 110892 to the phone number 73774. Then direct your own end-of-year contributions to someone else because we’re doing this instead of asking! If you’ve already signed up, please keep voting!
Happy New Year to all, and best wishes for a more prosperous, equitable, sustainable and inclusive Ohio!
Thanks from Amy Hanauer and the Policy Matters Ohio team
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