This is the eighth entry in “It’s the Economy, Stupid” a 15-part series analyzing the local economic news in five swing states.
No other Super Tuesday contest offered more late-night drama than Buckeye State’s primary. Long after the results were in for the nine other voting states, Ohio’s contest was still too-close-to-call. But by the end of the night, Romney defeated Santorum by nearly 10,300 votes. In seeming support of this series, the economy was cited as the number one issue.
The New York Times offers an interactive exit poll graphic to distinguish how different groups voted in all the primaries and caucuses held on Tuesday. For those Ohio voters selecting the economy as their primary concern, Romney led Santorum by 8 points. That gap likely made the difference in the outcome. The same exit poll indicated that both 54% of voters listed the economy as their number one concern and that overall, 73% of voters were very worried about the direction of the economy. But the presidential primary was not the only issue on the ballot.
A range of local initiatives were included in ballots across the state. Officials from at least 13 Northeastern Ohio school districts are celebrating the passage of school-funding, property tax increases. The Plain Dealer noted that of the 20 such initiatives on the ballot, several were renewals of past increases and half were for “emergency” funding due to both dramatic declines in property tax revenues and state funding cuts.
The same newspaper highlighted the supermajority that approved a health and human services tax issue in Cuyahoga County. The change should raise $137 million annually to help fund pre-kindergarten programs, child services, and elderly and low-income healthcare. The support for both types of local tax increases comes as serious federal tax reform appears a distant prospect in this election year.
Despite those increases, The Columbus Dispatch discussed a report by the non-profit Tax Foundation that heralded Ohio for having the 5th-lowest tax rate for businesses. The Foundation is based in Washington, DC and is officially a non-profit and nonpartisan research organization, but the article notes that it receives funding from conservative groups. The close to 200-page report is available online. No other swing state in this series ranked in the best-10 states (with the lowest tax costs). Pennsylvania was cited for having the highest costs for mature firms and second-highest for new firms. Colorado was fourth-highest for new firms. But Ohio’s taxes may be increasing for some businesses.
Republican Gov. John Kasich alluded to energy policy changes at the IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates’ (IHS CERA) conference on Wednesday. Hosting the governor to discuss his energy policy priorities seems fitting given that the “global information company” endeavors to predict future energy trends. According to an article in The Columbus Dispatch, Kasich would raise taxes on hydraulic fracturing, improve safety standards, and require disclosure of chemicals used in the process. He would spend $30 million on coal research projects – including carbon sequestration, and utilize the remainder of the new revenue to implement an across-the-board income tax cut.
While the Governor was advocating for changes to the treatment of hydraulic fracturing, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in favor of a significant wind farm project. The 4-3 decision affirmed one made by the Ohio Power Siting Board, which should enable the $150 million project covering nine-thousand acres, 70 turbines, and 126 megawatts of potential electricity generation to progress despite concerns by residents. Those concerns largely mirrored those found the trailer for a to-be-released documentary, which warned of the safety hazard posed by falling blades and their massive shadows. The decision by the Supreme Court would appear to appropriately weigh those concerns against the project’s statewide clean energy benefits.
Even as wind energy may yield new benefits for the state, mother nature saw fit to wreak havoc across Clermont County in Southwestern, Ohio on Friday. The governor declared a state of emergency and is seeking federal assistance for recovery efforts. Income-eligible families could receive up to $1,500 while elderly and disabled individuals could receive up to $750. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that State Treasurer’s office will make the Renew Ohio and Rebuild Ohio emergency financing programs available to affected individuals in that county. The programs reduce interest rates on construction by as much as 3%.
Pennsylvania “Philadelphia’s City Planning Commission OKs a master plan for the Delaware riverfront” The Philadelphia Inquirer, March 7th
The unanimous decision by the Planning Commission would transform a six-mile stretch of Delaware riverfront into a mix of commercial development and public parks and trails. The decision to endorse the plan released by the Delaware River Waterfront Corporation (DRWC) comes five years after the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Design started a dialogue on the future of the waterfront. To fully implement the proposal, the city will need invest $770 million over the next 25 years.
Florida “Florida universities face $300 million budget cut” Orlando Sentinel, March 6th
Students could face dramatic tuition hikes approaching the maximum 15% increase if the Governor approves the budget negotiated between the State Senate and House. The $300 million in cuts comes as the legislature looks to close a $1 billion hole in the state’s $70 billion budget. Florida State University is set to lose the most funding, at $65.8 million.
Colorado “County wants to be regional recycling hub” The Pueblo Chieftain, March 4th
County commissioners have submitted an application for a $242,000 planning grant to design the state’s second recycling center. At present, the county ships its recyclables 101 miles to a facility in Denver. With Pueblo County boasting several private trash collectors, commissioners view a $5 million center as a new lynchpin for the area’s economy.
New Mexico “Big Box Legislation Vetoed by Martinez” Albuquerque Journal, March 7th
The legislation would have required out-of-state companies that operate in 30,000 square feet facilities to combine their profits earned in all states for the purposes of the state’s corporate income tax. The square footage requirement would have largely limited its effect to retailers such as Walmart and Target. At the same time, it would have reduced the top corporate tax rate from 7.6 to 7.5%.
Wind Turbine photo provided courtesy of Wikimedia Commons