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Gov. Kasich’s budget proposals could help ONA members

John KasichBy Dennis Hetzel, Executive Director

The timing for Gov. Kasich’s address to our convention next Wednesday couldn’t be better.  He just announced his budget proposal for 2017-18. Plus, he is one of the most interesting and compelling political figures in America during times in our country that are the weirdest I can recall since the late 1960s – when I was a high school student with all the answers.

Nowadays, I might have fewer answers, but I sure have better questions.

One of those questions is what The Legislature will do with Kasich’s budget.  Even his fellow Republicans say they have little appetite for some of the changes he proposes, but it is far too early to declare anything dead, except perhaps his ongoing effort to raise the severance tax paid by oil and gas drillers.

Here are some points we have gleaned from what Kasich has proposed and how it might impact our members:

  • Although the Governor again wants to expand the sales tax to certain services, there is no proposal of which we’re aware to include advertising sales.  This, of course, is a major relief for all of us. We know exactly what will happen if advertisers suddenly have a new expense of around 7 percent on all their advertising. They simply will cut their spending.
  • Kasich has suggested adding the sales tax to lobbying services, and this will increase expenses for the ONA as well as any of our members who hire government relations firms.
  • Expanding the sales tax to cable television not only will raise bills for many consumers, it also affects several ONA members who also have cable operations.
  • Kasich wants to increase the overall state sales tax by .5 percent while cutting the state income tax once again and eliminating brackets. Income tax cuts can benefit many ONA members individually and their organizations. However, the ONA continues to respectfully disagree with the administration that this tax-shifting from income to sales taxes is beneficial overall to our communities, our readers and our advertisers.  We will remain active in the Ohio Service Industry Coalition.
  • We like Gov. Kasich’s concept of simplifying and centralizing municipal tax collection. We agree with those who believe Ohio has the most byzantine municipal taxation system in America. Businesses, including many ONA members, must deal with hundreds of different local systems, consuming time and expense – sometimes to pay only a few dollars in taxes. Kasich’s proposal to have businesses file one form and make a single payment online through the Ohio Business Gateway makes sense.
  • And, this is just my personal opinion, Kasich remains a visionary leader in a state that needs vision. His focus on pushing Ohio to embrace specific areas of technology as a means to job growth and economic development is correct.  Now, many will disagree on his methods of getting there, and that’s okay. I’m sure he will be talking to us about that.

The complete budget bill and specific language hasn’t been introduced yet. Be assured that we will take a deep dive into the language once it’s available.

Meanwhile, it hasn’t taken Legislators long to introduce bills related to open records.  We already have three bills on our Legislative Watch List.

  • House Bill 3 is one we have supported in the past. Rep. Mike Duffey’s  ”Data Ohio” bill is a broad effort to encourage more public records going online in formats that make them easy to access and analyze.
  • HB 6 is targeted at those who run websites and tabloid publications that display police booking photographs, which are public records.  These sites charge often hundreds of dollars to have these photos removed. We worked with the sponsor, Rep. John Barnes, to limit the language so that this does not intrude on the need to have access to these photos. The bill makes it a crime to charge for removal of criminal record information.
  • HB 8 is a bill that I feel we must oppose. Rep. Stephen Hambley’s legislation would block access to the names of minors in school bus accident reports.  Rep. Hambley explained to us that he has constituents concerned about invasion of privacy involving their children. While we all sympathize, these records must remain public so journalists can do their jobs. Plus, the precedent to start blocking information on accident reports in Ohio is bad. We also noted that in today’s world of social media and smartphone cameras, trying to keep such information secret is an impossible task.

As always, we invite your input. We’re looking forward to seeing many of you at our convention next week. Bring some good questions to ask Gov. Kasich.