GED reforms, movie madness, a jolting jobs report: News from Policy Matters
Posted May 26, 2016 in eNews
A roundup of happenings at Policy Matters Ohio…
New path – Gov. John Kasich last week announced proposed reforms to the state’s troubled high school equivalency exam system. After Pearson Vue, the world’s largest private for-profit educational testing corporation, took over GED testing in Ohio, the company tripled the price of the test, switched the skills being assessed, and began requiring online registration, credit card payment and test-taking by computer. Passage rates tumbled by 85 percent. Our researcher Hannah Halbert, building off of terrific work by reporter Dan McGraw for Cleveland Scene, exposed the failing system in February. The governor just proposed adding two new high school equivalency-testing options for those who want a diploma, smart reforms that we agree with.
#TimeForOT – “If you work extra, you should get paid extra” said Vice President Joe Biden as he announced the updating of overtime rules alongside Senator Sherrod Brown and Labor Secretary Tom Perez at the headquarters of Jeni’s ice cream in Columbus. The new rules – once modernized regularly but updated only once since 1975 – will ensure that more than 351,000 Ohio workers are paid overtime for hours worked beyond forty in a week. As the Veep once said, this is a BFD for American workers.
Thumbs down – Everyone loves the movies, including Ohio lawmakers, who also never met a tax break they didn’t love. But House Bill 475 called for hiking the Ohio film tax credit from $20 million to $75 million a year (lawmakers later reduced it to $40 million), and allows the industry to sell or transfer the tax break to other parties. Bad idea. As our Wendy Patton testified, transferable credits enable complicated deals that give special tax breaks to financial interests that do nothing to bring movies to Ohio. “It’s a costly and cumbersome approach,” Wendy said.
Raising the wage – Raising the minimum wage in Columbus to $12 an hour, carefully phased in over four years would give some 88,000 Columbus workers a raise, our researcher Michael Shields found. More than 85 percent of affected workers are 20 or older, nearly all with a high school degree. Roughly 67,000 Columbus children have a parent who’d get a raise. All in all, the higher wage would reduce inequality and boost the economy. We’re also keeping an eye on a more aggressive proposal to raise the minimum wage more quickly in Cleveland.
A jobs slump – Ohio was off to a good start in job growth in 2016 – until April. The state lost more than 13,000 jobs last month, most of them public jobs. While month-to-month changes are not that meaningful, the overall trend is, says our Hannah Halbert. And overall, Ohio job growth has been far behind the national average for years despite repeated deep tax cuts passed on the claim that they’d help.
Hot dogs & conversation – Our Amy Hanauer will join Rana B. Khoury, author of the beautiful “As Ohio Goes: Life in the Post-Recession Nation” (excerpt here), for an in-depth discussion about how Americans have survived the recession. Join us at this City Club event May 31, at 7:30 p.m. at the Happy Dog at the Euclid Tavern.
Least practical, most literary – The great folks at BELT magazine released The Cleveland Neighborhood Guidebook, the least practical, most literary book of it’s kind, with essays by two dozen Clevelanders, including our Amy Hanauer, who reviews the bike path from her home in Shaker to our offices in Asiatown. Order here and join Amy and the other authors at the launch event, 7 p.m. June 22 at Market Garden Brewery.
From our partners – The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reviews decline in state support for higher ed and pushes for reinstating the estate tax; the National Employment Law Project praises Ohio’s implementation of improvements under new federal policy for home care workers; and Ohio consumer advocates call attention to abuses in auto title lending.
In the news – The high school equivalency exam story generated amusing coverage, including the Columbus Dispatch’s note that “Even the left leaning Policy Matters Ohio is praising the Republican governor’s proposal.”… At least 10 news outlets quoted Policy Matters on the new overtime rules … Our testimony on the film tax credit garnered coverage from about a half-dozen outlets, including WKYC-TV…. Thanks to Rep. Marcia Fudge for the nice shout-out in the Huffington Post, calling attention to #WorthyWages for teachers.