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· December 29, 2011

IO Year in Review: The Winners and Losers of 2011

As Father Time quickens his pace toward the start of 2012, let’s take a glance back at 2011 to see who came out ahead—and who was left behind—by the Kasich Administration’s first biennial budget. First, the winners: Corporations. Taxpayer-funded incentive packages for American Greetings, Diebold and Bob Evans defined the new administration’s economic development strategy: one that threw millions of taxpayer dollars at CEOs who threaten to move out of state, even while failing to require any proof the companies were seriously contemplating a move. The Governor’s budget was a gift to the energy industry, introducing a new $10 million tax break for oil companies, reducing oversight of regulated utilities by the Consumers’ Counsel, and opening up state parks, to oil and gas drilling (which ultimately passed as a separate bill). The budget’s expansion of privatization – of the state’s prisons, liquor operations and Turnpike – has and will continue to produce windfalls for corporations. Conservative Campaign contributors. The Speaker of the House allowed the lobbyist for a major campaign contributor to draft major sections of the budget to the benefit of his client, Charter School profiteer David Brennan. After Innovation Ohio and newspaper editorials called on the Senate to remove the provisions, legislators scrapped the worst of the amendments, but not without granting for-profit operators the right to open more schools without independent sponsors and adequate oversight. Millionaires and Billionaires. After first extending the final phase of the Taft Tax cut that overwhelmingly benefitted the wealthiest Ohioans, Gov. Kasich and his allies passed a budget that eliminated the estate tax, providing a new tax break for the wealthiest 7% of Ohioans. Innovation Ohio argued for a different approach that would protect middle class Ohioans while preserving a vital source of revenue for communities. And the losers: Ohio Consumers. The Kasich budget cut funding literally in half for the Consumers’ Counsel, a watchdog agency responsible for protecting Ohio’s residential and business customers against abuses by regulated utilities. The agency has saved rate-payers billions in the past decade, but has been virtually dismantled as a result of the budget, a move IO labeled its first Taxpayer Rip-Off of the Week. Ohio Kids. Upon its introduction, Innovation Ohio reported that the Kasich budget diverted, by Fiscal Year 2013, an additional $567.7 million to private and failing charter schools. Such a diversion leaves the 1.7 million Ohio children educated by its public schools with drastically reduced resources at the worst possible time. Ohio Taxpayers. By dramatically reducing state funding for schools and local governments (by $3 billion and 50%, respectively), the Kasich budget only worsened the situation at the local level, leaving local officials few alternatives besides massive lay-offs of public employees—or massive local tax increases to preserve vital public services and education.

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