Ohio’s Issue 3: Time to End the War on Pot

October 30, 2015

The very definition of fairness is to treat like things in a like manner.   Yet many of our local politicians and the Courier Editorial Board would lump marijuana together with heroin; even as every objective standard would say that marijuana is far more like alcohol.

Simply take every objection to legalizing marijuana and replace the word alcohol and you will see that it is obvious that the opponents of issue 3 favor prohibition.

Prohibition of alcohol did not work.  Prohibition of marijuana is not working and will not work.  The cost of enforcement to the tax payer, the cost to our economy by locking up young people who should be starting their working life as productive members of society, is too high.

You can make a strong case that marijuana is less costly to society and less harmful to individuals than alcohol.  Yet alcohol is perfectly legal and can be purchased at numerous locations throughout our city. The State of Ohio holds a monopoly on the sale of hard alcohol.  We promote and even celebrate the consumption of alcohol while we wage a pointless and costly war on marijuana.

Hypocrisy and bias of our laws regarding the use alcohol and marijuana is not lost on millions of Ohioans.  It is symptomatic of an elite who have completely lost touch with the realities of day to day life.  They have put their personal bias for their drug of choice over the choice of their constituents.  They are so committed to this bias, devoid of any rational justification, that they are willing to arrest and imprison thousands of their own constituents.

Issue 3 may not be the perfect answer, but don’t be fooled by our State Rep. Sprague and State Sen. Hite; they will never support the legalization of marijuana.  Issue 3 is our best hope to bring fairness to our criminal justice system.

This issue is about personal freedom and smaller, less intrusive government.

This pointless and costly war has gone on too long.

You can bring it to an end. I urge you to vote no on issue 2 and yes for issue 3.


Findlay’s Income Tax: Unsustainable and Anti-growth

October 16, 2012

Demographics, the Decline of the Middle Class and the Wage (Income) Tax

In the run up to the November election for issue #3, the City of Findlay’s request to make the quarter percent temporary income tax permanent (for a total rate of 1.25%) has been hotly contested.  The debate over the tax renewal largely revolved around the question of whether Findlay has a spending problem or a revenue problem.  After a two hour meeting with the City of Findlay Auditor Jim Staschiak II, I discovered that the City of Findlay has a demographic problem.  This demographic problem could be systemic and long term.

In an effort to explain Findlay’s financial position, Mr. Stashciak produced a graph he named “What’s the Employment Trend?” that illustrates that the number of employed individuals in Hancock County dipped in 1999 and has remained flat ever since, while total population continued a slow but steady rise.

Our population is aging, which is not really big news.  But, when you add in other demographic and economic factors and you understand how the City Income Tax really works, we may find that the City Income Tax cannot sustain the City of Findlay’s operations or capital improvements.

Let’s start with the City Income Tax.  First, the City income Tax is really a wage tax.  The income tax does not tax investment income, pensions or social security income.  And while the city income tax does tax businesses, the revenue that the City of Findlay receives from businesses is just a small percentage of revenue collected from the income tax.  This disparity between what businesses pay and wage earners pay means that workers, in effect, pay the city tax for the services they use and for the businesses where they work.

The second thing we need to know is that with the elimination of other taxes like the tangible property tax and the estate tax and the cut backs in state revenue sharing, the city wage tax has become the primary source of city financing.

So, we already know that our population is aging which means that fewer people are directly supporting the finances of the city.  But a key number that I do not have is the per capita wage tax receipts.

With fewer workers supporting a larger population we are already starting in a hole.  But what if those workers are, on average, making less money?  Given the transition we have seen in Findlay of manufacturing jobs to the service industries and knowing that at least one major manufacturer in Findlay has a two-tier wage system, average wages could very well be in decline.  This combination of aging population and a workforce with a declining income or income that is not keeping up with inflation could spell real trouble for the City of Findlay.

If my hypothesis is right, the per capita wage tax receipts are in fact declining, that would mean the City of Findlay will be in a constant battle to match revenues with services.  It would also mean the traditional way of fixing a city’s flagging finances through growth could, in fact, make matters worse.

If we add businesses or build out subdivisions in Findlay that attract residents and workers that earn less and therefore pay less than our current per capita tax receipts, we would only be dragging down the average, making it harder for the City of Findlay to maintain its current level of services and provide service to support the growth.

We need to put some real math behind this issue.  We may find that the current tax base for the City of Findlay (and other cities in Ohio) that relies on a wage tax is unsustainable and anti-growth.

To find the graph referred to above and other information about the City of Findlay’s finances see the Auditor’s webpage: http://www.ci.findlay.oh.us/?id=57


Open Letter to the Findlay Rotary Club: Political Preference

September 25, 2012

In May of this year, after reading that Rep. Sprague had addressed the Findlay Rotary Club, I contacted the Rotary to see if there would be interest in letting John Kostyo, who was a declared candidate running against Rep. Sprague for a seat in the Ohio House of Representatives, also address their membership.

I received a call from Lynn Child, the program director for the Rotary Club. Ms. Child informed me that it was the policy of the club not to permit political candidates to promote their campaigns and issues.  Guest speakers are to provide educational presentations like pending legislation.  I replied that Mr. Kostyo was more than able to play by their ground rules.  I was then informed that Mr. Kostyo was welcome to address the membership, but the earliest date open for a speaker was in December.

After reading the story in today’s (Sept 25th) Findlay Courier “Latta Unsure if Tax Cuts Will Continue”, I feel the campaign for John Kostyo and the public deserves some clarification of the policies of the Findlay Rotary Club in regard to political speakers.  It would seem to me that any talk by any politician, officeholder or candidate is inherently political.  I would also call into question the timing of Rep. Latta address given that we are in the heart of the campaign season.

Let me be clear, the Findlay Rotary Club is a private club and it is well within their rights to invite any speaker at their discretion.  But if the Findlay Rotary Club wishes to present themselves as a public forum for the benefit of the City of Findlay and if the Findlay Courier is going to cover their meetings as a public forum, then it is my belief that the Findlay Rotary Club needs to provide the public and the press with a clear statement of policy in regard to political guest speakers.  It is my perception that the current policy, as expressed and executed, is being manipulated to give a political preference.

See Story in The Findlay Courier: http://www.thecourier.com/Issues/2012/Sep/25/ar_news_092512_story2.asp?d=092512_story2,2012,Sep,25&c=n


The City Income Tax and Trust Fund Babies

September 7, 2012

What Every City Councilperson (and everyone else) should know about the City Income Tax.

A few weeks ago Charles W. Weasel, a local Attorney, wrote a letter to Findlay City Council suggesting a fix to the City of Findlay’s budget crisis.  A crisis largely caused by the decrease in State funding.  His idea; change state law to permit the city income tax to include taxing interest and dividend income as well as wages.  As Mr. Weasel wrote “Currently only the “working man” pays the Findlay City Income Tax.  Wealthy retirees and “Trust Fund Babies” are given a free ride at the expense of the wage earner.”

Of all the inequities built into the city income tax (look for future posts on the other inequities) the fact that wages are almost exclusively taxed, while interest, dividend and capital gains income are not, seems blatantly unfair.  A very wealthy person whose income comes solely from inherited investments could live their whole life in Findlay and never pay a dime in city income tax.  Findlay City Councilperson Anne Spence was so impressed with the idea that she promised to pass it on to Ohio State Senator Cliff Hite-R and Ohio State Rep. Robert Sprague-R, quoting chapter and verse of the Ohio Revised Code Section that would require changes to accommodate adjusting the City Income Tax.

Of course this proposed change to state law is NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN and Miss Spence should probably know that.  There are two reasons that the GOP controlled Ohio State government is never going to allow cities to tax investment income.  The first reason is a matter of mechanics.  Collecting and administering a flat income tax on wages is relatively easy.  Adding investment income to the mix would require every city to set up its own version of the IRS.

But, Mr. Weasel stumbled on the real reason why Gov. Kasich, Senator Hite and Rep Sprague are playing this taxation shell game in the first place.  Mr. Weasel and Miss Spence, the reason your city income tax is going up is because the city income tax does not tax investment income.  The GOP plan from the beginning is to shift the totality of municipalities and state taxes from investment income, (the rich) to wages (Ohio’s working families).  On top of that, they are cutting progressive taxes like the estate tax and the state income tax only to force increases in city taxes that are a flat rate tax.  So, the lowest paid worker pays the same rate as the best paid wage earner in the city.

If Miss Spence was paying attention to her Republican playbook she would know that cutting taxes on the wealthy and their investment income, not raising their taxes, is fundamental to the GOP’s game plan.


Ever The Findlay Courier Wary Of Sprague Amendment

May 25, 2012

Even The Findlay Courier is “wary” of the Constitutional amendment put forward by Ohio State Rep. Robert Cole Sprague.  In an editorial appearing on May 16th, the Courier rejected Rep. Sprague’s support for the “National Debt Relief Amendment” saying in part “Requiring 50 legislatures to enter discussions on the federal budget would only make a bad situation worse”. Rep. Sprague, when The Courier takes sides against a Republican office holder it is time to wake up, smell the coffee and reconsider your support for this ill-advised idea.

Read the whole Courier Editorial here: http://www.thecourier.com/opinion/editoral/2012/May/16/ar_ed_051612.asp?d=051612,2012,May,16&c=e_0


Rep. Spraue’s Constitutional Craziness

May 23, 2012

At last week’s Findlay Rotary club, Rep. Robert Sprague put forward a proposed constitutional amendment that makes one question his fitness to represent the people for the 83rd district.  The National Debt Relief Amendment would give state legislatures the power to set our national debt limit.  How any legislator could believe for a second that this proposed amendment is in any way workable is beyond imagination.  This amendment would tear to shreds large sections of the United States Constitution.

Rep. Sprague also suggested that his constitutional amendment be put forward at a Constitutional Convention which might lead one to question his basic powers of reason.  Given our current level of political discourse, a constitutional convention could easily go off the rails, taking our nation spinning off into areas that are better left to a more reasoned political process.  Even Rep. Sprague seems to acknowledge these problems with his own proposal, yet he made it anyway.

It may make you feel better to know that Mr. Sprague did not dream up this nutty idea all on his own.    The National Debt Relief Amendment is the brainchild of the far right wing group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) funded by the mega rich like the Koch brothers.  ALEC is intent on making the US a tax free paradise for the one percent.  Rep. Sprague’s support for this harebrained idea raises the question: does Rep Sprague have the independent mind that we want from our representative?

Luckily for the voters of Findlay and the 83rd district, we do not need to put up with Rep. Sprague and his screwball ideas.  In this election, we have a real choice.  We can vote for a legislator who will put the needs and concerns of his constituents; the working families of Ohio, before the desires of a far rightwing special interest group bent on serving the one percent.

John Kostyo will work for you, to build an Ohio that works for you.  Robert Cole Sprague voted against firefighters, law enforcement officers and teachers.  Next time he will vote against you.  Don’t let that happen.  Vote John Kostyo this November!


Higher Local Taxes Thanks to Gov. Kasich and Rep. Sprague

March 28, 2012

Higher local taxes are in your future thanks to Governor Kasich and Representative Sprague.  The elimination of the Estate Tax will cost the City of Findlay about .8 million dollars a year in lost revenue.  That is about 3.3 % of the city’s annual budget.  It 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 $4.9 million shortfall for the year 2013.

Rep. Robert Sprague and The Courier acknowledge that 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.

For a Governor that has his sights 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.  Then Kasich will let 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 lawmakers 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, seems irresponsible and wholly unfair.

Courier Editorial “Unbalanced”: http://www.thecourier.com/opinion/editoral/2012/Mar/23/ar_ed_032312.asp?d=032312,2012,Mar,23&c=e_0

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


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