The Ohio General Assembly is taking the last two weeks of March off for Easter break, but the House Finance Committee continues to meet behind closed doors to come up with a general revenue budget that could pass the House. Governor John Kasich presented the Legislature with a bold outline on everything from taxes, education, and health care to oil and gas drilling.
Here is where issues stand at this early stage of the two-year General Assembly.
Commercial Activity Tax (CAT). Your MIRA representatives have done an outstanding job in convincing the General Assembly and the governor’s office to move the CAT to the RAC at double the rate, but with a single point of collection. Working with other interested parties, an amendment is being drafted by the Columbus law firm of Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP on behalf of the Ohio Petroleum Marketers Association. The Ohio Convenience Store Association and MIRA will review the amendment before it is offered by Sen. Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati) to make certain that it is a single point of collection. If for any reason the amendment is not done in a timely manner or goes beyond the scope of the CAT, MIRA is prepared to offer their own amendment. The two-year budget bill must be passed by June 30, so this is a process that we will watch very carefully.
Sales Tax. Governor Kasich had proposed broadening the sales tax to some 90 entities currently not subject to the sales tax. He also wants to reduce the tax from 5.5 percent to 5 percent. MIRA opposes the broadening of the sales tax as it would increase taxes at many levels. As expected, there was so much opposition to this proposal from hundreds of groups that the legislature is expected to scale it back considerably or scrap it entirely.
Medicaid Expansion. The Governor proposes to expand Medicaid to some 300,000 uninsured Ohioans. While many in the health care field applaud, the overwhelming majority of conservative legislators oppose it as too costly; once put in place, it would have a life of its own. It’s too early to know where this will end up.
Education. The Governor’s education funding proposal was supposed to help small rural schools but the formula actually helped large school districts that were growing in population. Once again, the Governor is in trouble on this issue and a compromise or total rewrite is likely.
Tax Reform. The chairman of the House Finance Committee, Rep. Ron Amstutz (R-Wooster), has indicated that the committee is looking at major changes and tax reform, including CAT, which they may offer as a stand-alone bill or include in the budget bill. The Senate has not given any indication where they stand on any of the above issues.
The next step will eventually be a conference committee to resolve differences between the Senate and House of Representatives. MIRA will continue to work diligently on behalf of its members to improve business conditions. (Terry Fleming is APFD’s Ohio lobbyist.)