Tax reform may be coming to Ohio in the next couple years; at least that’s the hope of State Rep. Craig Riedel of Defiance.
Riedel expounded on this topic and others as the guest speaker at Defiance Rotary’s luncheon meeting Monday at St. Paul Lutheran Church.
Noting that the state’s next two-year budget is under discussion in the Ohio General Assembly, Riedel — who represents Ohio’s 82nd House District — said the house will probably pass related legislation within days. It will then go to the Ohio Senate with both chambers needing to put the budget in place for the governor’s signature by June 30.
As proposed, the budget would cut Ohioans’ income taxes by 2% beginning in the next two-year state spending plan which is expected to go into effect on July 1, according to Riedel. But he said Monday “we can do better.”
Therefore, he explained, he has introduced legislation that would reduce Ohio’s income tax structure from three to five brackets. Riedel hopes the state eventually can reduce this to one bracket — a flat tax offering a single rate for all Ohioans — within a couple years.
He called such a move an attempt to become more competitive with surrounding states, saying Ohio is the only state in the Midwest not to have a flat tax. Surrounding states (Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Pennsylvania and West Virginia) all have one, according to Riedel.
As for the state’s fiscal situation generally, he said “we’re actually in solid shape financially” with revenues exceeding budget expenses by $763 million.
While Riedel and like-minded persons are hoping for tax reductions, the state is still grappling with a potentially related issue. Federal funds given to Ohio through the American Rescue Plan — approved by Congress recently and signed by President Joe Biden — cannot be used for tax relief.
Riedel expressed dismay at this federal stipulation, and noted a measure he supports — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost’s lawsuit against the federal government contesting the measure.
Also pending is House Bill 1 (HB 1) which addresses state education funding, according to Riedel. He said it provides approximately $2 billion for education phased in over six years in an attempt to correct what are considered long-standing deficiencies in the equity of state funding.
“The General Assembly has kicked this can down the road for 30-some years, and (House Speaker) Bob Cupp took it upon himself about three years ago …,” explained Riedel, noting that HB 1 would be merged with the next state operating budget. “… I do support it. We needed to do this.”
Riedel also highlighted a number of bills he’s helping — or has helped — decide in the General Assembly as well as other Statehouse happenings. They include:
• Senate Bill 22. The bill brings the Ohio General Assembly into the decision-making process during pandemics and other emergencies, and was a challenge to what many Republican legislators believed was an usurpation of their authority by Gov. Mike DeWine. Legislators overrode DeWine’s veto on the bill, which becomes law on June 23. “… when we overrode we took the ball and ripped it out of his hands because he was not going to give it up,” said Riedel .”So, now we’re (the Ohio General Assembly) part of the conversation … .”
• House Bill 146. Riedel and Republican Susan Manchester helped introduced this legislation as a third attempt to move forward legislation that would eliminate the need for local governments to pay prevailing wages on projects over a certain dollar amount. He said in some cases the wage could be twice as high as what it otherwise might be.
• House Bill 118. Introduced by Riedel and Republican Dick Stein, this would provide township trustees with the option of deciding whether their townships should be zoned for windfarms and solar fields, according to Riedel. If residents are not in agreement, the matter could be decided by voters at the ballot box.
• House Bill 128 (HB 128). This legislation, recently approved, effectively replaces the controversial House Bill 6 (HB 6) concerning subsidies to support nuclear power plants in the northern Ohio towns of Oak Harbor and Perry. The previous bill was tied to the bribery scandal surrounding former Republican House speaker Larry Householder. HB 128, Riedel explained, eliminated taxpayer-funded subsidies for the nuclear power plants.
• a pending resolution concerning federal term limits. This measure would express support for a wider effort to limit U.S. representatives and senators to 18 years in the U.S. House and Senate.
• Householder’s status. Riedel told Rotarians that despite Householder’s troubles and his removal as speaker, he was re-elected in November as a state representative (to Ohio’s 72nd District east of Columbus) and continues in his seat. “I wish Larry would just simply resign, but I don’t think he’s going to do it,” said Riedel.