To underscore the need for passage of a bill he introduced in May to protect tax incentives in the state, U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R., Ohio) held a press conference yesterday in front of the Johnson Controls plant in Northwood.
The choice of the site was deliberate: The automotive supplier has benefited from the state's tax incentive program to plan an expansion, and the site is only a few miles from DaimlerChrysler AG's huge assembly plant in north Toledo, a facility made possible with the $280 million incentive package it was offered, Mr. Voinovich said yesterday morning.
"Without incentives, we probably would not have had the Jeep plant. And without that, we wouldn't be standing here today," he said.
Bill Kohler, vice president and general counsel for the automotive group of Johnson Controls, of Milwaukee, said tax incentives help companies reduce investment costs, a major factor in deciding where to locate and expand. The company is in the midst of adding 146 hourly jobs this year and next after transferring Wrangler seat production from a plant in Taylor, Mich. "We are proud to be here in Northwood the work force has been great," Mr. Kohler said.
The event was to raise the profile of Mr. Voinovich's bill, scheduled for hearings this month by a Senate committee. The bill affirms that a state has the authority to provide investment tax incentives for economic development. It is in response to a ruling last year by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that the Ohio law violates the U.S. Constitution's commerce clause, which bars states from interfering with or taxing interstate commerce.
The ruling has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court but the senator said yesterday, "We can't wait for the Supreme Court.
Mr. Voinovich said the bill has bipartisan support.
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"We're in a global marketplace now competing against places like India and over in China, and they're not going to give up their incentives," Mr. Voinovich said, his voice rising.
and is co-sponsored by all the senators in the Sixth Circuit Court's jurisdiction, which covers Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee, and Kentucky.