September 2011 News from Policy Matters Ohio: Dealings in Dollars and Cents

- September 18, 2011

Poverty Up, Income Down – Census data released last week found that more than 1 in every 7 Ohioans were living in poverty in 2010. Median wages for Ohioans fell by $7,000 over the past 10 years. Hannah Halbert responded to the numbers, “If we want to keep education, job training, transportation, and health care within reach for Ohio families, we have to fund public institutions, benefits, and services adequately.”

Jobs Down – This month’s JobWatch shows that Ohio lost jobs in August, a change from the small month-to-month job gains we had been seeing in 2011. Ohio’s 9.1% unemployment rate argues for the type of investment in infrastructure improvements and job-creation proposed in the American Jobs Act, instead of austerity measures currently being taken at the federal and state level.

Dollars Down… – Our early September report, ‘A Thousand Blows’, provides a county-by-county breakdown of the billion dollars taken from revenue-sharing programs that historically supported counties, municipalities and local services in Ohio. Thousands of services across the state, including street lighting, sewer districts, port authorities, parks, and health services of all kinds are now scrambling to deal with resulting budget shortfalls.

…and Falling Further? – Twelve federal legislators, including Ohio Senator Rob Portman, have been charged with cutting an additional $1.2 trillion from the federal debt. More than a third of Ohio’s budget– and much higher percentages of our health and human services budget– is federally funded. This early September report details how budget talks in DC could significantly hurt Ohio.

So, Where is the Money? – Last Friday, Zach Schiller testified before an Ohio House Committee on the state’s tax code, saying that dramatic changes made in 2005 have cost the state $2.5 billion a year, at a time when revenue is dearly needed. Personal income tax rates were cut by 21%, saving $10,000 a year a year for the most affluent and a fraction of that for the vast majority of Ohioans. The state also cut its tax on corporate profits, making Ohio one of only six states without such a tax. Read more here

Who Pays for Ohio Roads? – While Congress considers cutting one-third of federal funding to already strapped public transit agencies like Cleveland’s RTA, a new fact sheet shows that investment in public transit can be more cost effective than highway spending. When we fully consider all the subsidies that support highways and roads, the total cost of driving a car is at least $1 per mile travelled, compared to commuter rail, at 67 cents per passenger mile.

Speaking Out – Wendy Patton participated in two panels in Columbus, Amy Hanauer spoke on a panel in Lakewood, and Pam Rosado made the rounds of community centers in Cleveland on Issue 2. Their conclusions? Collective bargaining gives workers a voice to improve services and weigh in on compensation; public sector workers are modestly paid; and decent compensation in the public sector is essential to strong communities. 

Labor Day Blues: The State of Working Ohio – It won’t come as news to anyone that Ohio workers are struggling as we emerge from this Labor Day weekend, but Policy Matters’ State of Working Ohio 2011 finds the numbers are particularly grim. In the past decade in Ohio, median wages declined more than in any other state. The percentage of men who are working is the lowest in recorded history in Ohio, and long-term unemployment – the percent of the unemployed who’ve been out of work for at least half a year – is higher than it’s ever been in sixty years of record keeping, both in Ohio and in the nation.

As federal and state policymakers obsess about deficits, lowering taxes, and slashing the public sector, it’s clear that they are missing the point. What Ohio really needs is a much stronger job creation and preservation agenda. This report provides a roadmap back to an economy where every Ohioan can contribute – and benefit.

The dismal findings yielded dozens of news stories all over Ohio, including editorials affirming some of our recommendations in the Akron Beacon Journal, the Toledo Blade and the Plain Dealer, as well as this television coverage on Cleveland’s News Channel 5.

That’s all,
The Policy Matters Team

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