Thursday, Jan 18, 2018
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Bill attempts sales tax exemption for glasses again

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Gov. John Kasich

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COLUMBUS —The Ohio House on Wednesday approved a massive bill that allows lawmakers to get around a couple of Gov. John Kasich’s budget vetoes without having to do outright overrides.

Among numerous other things, Senate Bill 8 would exempt prescription eyewear from state and local piggyback sales taxes and ease the impact of lost revenue from a now-defunct business tax for a handful of school districts.

Similar provisions had been vetoed by the governor when he signed into law the two-year state budget that took effect on July 1. The General Assembly did override six of the governor’s 47 budget vetoes, but these were not among them.

The latest effort is on its way to the governor’s desk. The entire House delegation from northwest Ohio supported the bill.

The House recently passed a stand-alone measure — House Bill 116, sponsored by Rep. Derek Merrin (R., Monclova Township) — to try again to enact the tax exemption for prescription glasses, frames, and contacts beginning on July 1, 2019. The stand-alone bill is still pending in the Senate.

“This provision will save taxpayers $29 million a year,” Mr. Merrin said. “It also brings uniformity to our tax code by treating all prescriptions equally.”

Ohio is one of 14 states that subject eyewear to sales taxes, which can reach above 8 percent depending on where the purchase is made.

“Removing economic barriers, like the sales tax, makes it more likely that patients obtain these essential medical devices which contribute towards success in employment and school, and provide our senior population with mobility,” said Dr. David Anderson, of Miamisburg, president of the Ohio Optometric Association.

Numerous “budget correction” provisions were inserted in conference committee into Senate Bill 8.

The bill started out with a focus on providing an additional tool, the 1:1 Match School Facilities Option, for school districts that haven’t qualified for state programs for school construction but still want help for information technology, security, and other improvements.

Such districts could accept smaller amounts in exchange for a reduced local match.

The bill would also ease the rate at which the state continues to phase out replacement revenue for schools for the now-defunct tangible personal property tax that businesses paid on equipment, furnishings, and inventory. 

Just three northwest Ohio school districts are among the 19 that would benefit from the change in the formula, which would provide a total of $17.4 million more in state aid over two years.

For Port Clinton, it would mean $273,250 more than originally expected this year with no change next year. Perkins, in Erie County, would see $150,084 more in both years while nearby Huron City would receive $166,344 more this year and $66,140 more the next.

The bill caps the loss that districts would experience because of the disappearing revenue to 3.5 percent.

Contact Jim Provance at jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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