If you put this simple proposition before the voters of Findlay: Would you be in favor of eliminating the Ohio Estate Tax and raising the city income tax? It is my feeling that most people would choose to continue the Estate Tax. The Governor and the Ohio General Assembly have decided that it is in your best interest to cut the Estate Tax and eliminate its contribution to the City of Findlay’s revenue stream.
Our leaders in Columbus will point out that the State of Ohio needs to reduce taxes to attract business investment and increase consumer spending. What they do not want to talk about is how the elimination of the Estate Tax, a highly progressive tax paid by a few wealthy departed souls, is only likely to force increases in local and highly regressive taxes, like the city income tax, on living and breathing working families. Is trading the elimination of the Estate Tax for increases in local taxes really a good deal for Ohioans and the citizens of Findlay?
The elimination of the Estate Tax will cost the City of Findlay about .8 million dollars a year in lost revenue, about 3.3 % of the city’s annual budget. That may not seem like much, but when you add to that the loss of other sources of state funding and the roll back of the quarter percent emergency city income tax, the city of Findlay is facing a 21% loss in revenues for the year 2011.
On top of all of those funding losses you also have to consider the State mandated changes in the criminal justice system. The governor has concluded that the answer to cutting the cost of, and reducing overcrowding in, the state prison system is to remand a larger share of convicted criminals to the care of local government.
At the (Findlay/Hancock County) Criminal Justice Summit in May, our local Judges put forward a compelling argument why Findlay/Hancock County needs to begin planning now to increase the space in our local jail system. Some of that increased need for “bed” space is organic. Population growth, an upturn in drug use, the poor economy; one can debate the reasons for increased crime rates but the numbers point to a growing need for jail space. Now, add to that the states plan to leave more criminals to the local communities to deal with, and you have a looming and costly crisis growing in the local criminal justice system. Building more jail space takes real money but the real expense is the ongoing operational cost. The new state budget provides no money to the local communities for additional jails. As The Courier editors point out, alternative sentencing is cheaper than sending someone to prison but the state budget provides no funding for those additional alternative sentencing programs either.
Our Ohio Rep. Robert Sprague and The Courier acknowledge local taxes are bound to go up, but they believe that trading state taxes for local taxes is a good deal for the citizens of Ohio and Findlay. I fail to see how trading one tax for another makes Ohio more competitive. And while Rep. Sprague and The Courier call for the “Consolidation of redundant services” at the local level, in terms of the state correction system they seem intent on forcing local government into running and funding their own little prison system.
For a Governor that has his sight set on a presidential run in 2016, cutting the Estate Tax is all gain and no pain. Governor Kasich can stick a nice feather in his cap by cutting the Estate Tax, long the whipping boy of the Republican Party, while letting the local governments and local tax payers make up the loss of revenue. Cutting the Ohio Estate Tax will play well with the Republican base at the national level, but where does it leave the Ohio tax payer?
I would ask; are Ohio’s Republican law makers using this budget crisis not only to shift the burden from the State to the Local level, but more importantly to shift the total of our state and local revenues to a less progressive and a more regressive tax system. Elimination of the Estate Tax is the keystone in the Republican plan to shift a greater tax burden from the wealthy to working families.
In an environment where the state government is pinching local government at both ends with decreased funding and increased unfunded mandates to close the state’s budget gap, cutting the Estate Tax and placing a high tax burden on working families in favor of the wealthy, it seems irresponsible and wholly unfair.
So that is why, as a candidate for Findlay City Council, I refuse to fall into the Governor’s trap. I will not support any increase in any Findlay City taxes for any reason until the Ohio State Government sees fit to reinstate the Ohio Estate Tax.
Candidate for Findlay City Council 2nd Ward
Courier Editorial “Balancing Act”: http://www.thecourier.com/opinion/editoral/2011/Jun/21/ar_ed_062111.asp?d=062111,2011,Jun,21&c=e_0