Tuesday, May 22, 2018
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Ohio bill cuts taxes, restricts wind farms

GROVE CITY, Ohio — Gov. John Kasich signed into law Monday a bill containing $400 million more in tax cuts, insisting the changes will have an “accordion effect” on both ends of the income spectrum.

He used his line-item veto pen just three times on non-controversial items, but he let stand a provision setting a new restriction on wind farms.

House Bill 483, which took effect immediately upon his signature, accelerates the gradual implementation of personal income tax cuts set in motion last year, reaching the total of 10 percent in 2014, a year ahead of schedule.

It expands an existing income tax break for small businesses from the prior 50 percent on the first $250,000 in income to up to 75 percent, assuming the state’s expected budget surpluses hold up.

It doubles the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income families to 10 percent of the federal equivalent. The law also increases the personal exemption on tax returns for those earning up to $80,000 a year.

Highlights of the state budget signed Monday by Gov. John Kasich:

■ Accelerates gradual income tax cuts set in motion last year, reaching the full 10 percent cut in 2014 instead of 2015.
■ Requires minimum setback for a new wind turbine to be at least 1,125 feet from the property line. The provision does not apply to projects already approved by the state Power Siting Board.
■ Doubles Ohio’s Earned Income Tax Credit for lower-income families to 10 percent of the federal EITC.
■ Increases the personal exemption on tax returns for those earning up to $80,000 a year.
■ Expands income tax break for small businesses from current 50 percent on the first $250,000 in income to up to 75 percent.
■ Declares state university athletes are not considered public employees.
■ Limits the information that outside groups must disclose when paying for ads seeking to influence elections.
■ Provides $47.5 million more for addiction and mental health services, including housing assistance and residential treatment.
■ Creates a permanent registration option for dog owners as an alternative to having to renew registrations annually. The bill also provides for one-year and three-year registrations as well as part-year registrations.
■ Allows Allen County to levy a special lodging tax of up to 3 percent to pay for expansion and operations of a soldiers’ memorial.

“We can’t have a tax bill that only lowers the top rate,” the Republican governor said. “We have to have an accordion effect. We have to have a situation where, yes, we have to lower our top rate, because we have people leaving this state left and right to go to a safe harbor where they have no income tax.”

But in a joint statement, House Minority Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard (D., Columbus) and Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni (D., Youngstown), said the decisions reflected at the mid-point of the current two-year budget set the wrong priorities.

“It is unforgivable that this budget does nothing to stop the increase in property taxes and other local levies,” they said. “In fact, this new budget continues Governor Kasich’s trend of cutting funds for local communities and education to create income tax cuts for the top 1 percent.”

The governor chose not to veto a provision setting a new minimum setback distance for wind turbines.

Prior law requires 1,125 feet between the extended tip of a turbine and the nearest home. The new law changes that to 1,125 feet from the property line, a move that wind farms argue will decrease the number of turbines they can erect, making wind farms less economically feasible.

The move was seen by the industry as a sequel to Mr. Kasich’s signature on Friday to a law freezing for two years Ohio’s mandate that utilities find at least 25 percent of their power from greener sources by 2025.

When asked after the bill-signing ceremony at a suburban Columbus food bank why he let the wind farm provision stand, Mr. Kasich instead explained why he signed Senate Bill 310. He said he would have vetoed a bill that indefinitely froze the renewable standards.

“Is the 25 percent number the right number? I don’t think so,” he said. “It was snatched out really without any real science behind it. It was going to become increasingly difficult for both consumers and businesses, so we should take a pause and do a reset.”

Ohio has two large wind farms in Van Wert and Paulding counties, Blue Creek and Timber Road. The new law applies only to new wind farms, but opponents of the language argue that the two western Ohio wind farms would not have happened if the new rule were in place at the time those decisions were made.

Although some provisions of the bill have drawn criticism, Mr. Kasich and lawmakers again drew praise from social-service advocates for putting more money into such things as addiction treatment, mental health, food bank, and adult and child protective services.

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

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