The General Assembly has spent a great deal of time in recent years working on legislation that will help build a stronger business climate in Ohio.
In 2005, we passed tax reform, which included a 21 percent income tax cut for Ohio taxpayers; the elimination of the state’s tangible personal property tax on inventory, machinery and equipment and furniture and fixtures, which was a major deterrent to investment; and the phase-out of the Corporation Franchise Tax over five years. As I outlined in my column last month, a report by the Ohio Business Roundtable shows that these changes have already begun to have a positive impact on the state’s economy. For instance, there were more than $7 billion worth of new private investment projects announced or started by Ohio companies last year, up from $3.8 billion in 2005.
The Legislature also passed tort reform during the 125th General Assembly, which brought Ohio’s legal liability climate from 43rd to 4th best in the country, according to the Pacific Research Institute. By reducing frivolous lawsuits, we can make Ohio a more attractive place to do business.
Most recently, my colleagues and I approved a comprehensive economic stimulus package, which included $1.57 billion in investments to improve the state’s infrastructure, as well as support for growing areas of Ohio’s economy, including bio-medical research, advanced energy production and the development of bio-based products.
There have also been important efforts to strengthen Ohio’s workforce. Lawmakers made historic investments in higher education during the last budget and continue to work to improve the state’s primary and secondary schools. In addition, I fought to pass a proposal that created the Ohio Incumbent Worker Training Program, a grant-based effort to provide financial support to businesses for employee training.
While all of these efforts are sure to have an important impact on Ohio’s long-term economic success, business owners still face major hurdles to growth and investment in the state. And, it’s safe to say that slow permitting times, excessive fines, unnecessary paperwork and other regulatory nightmares are probably at the top of that list.
As part of the ongoing campaign to bolster Ohio’s business climate, on July 16, Senate President Bill Harris and House Speaker Jon Husted announced the creation of a bipartisan Regulatory Reform Task Force, charged with studying the state’s regulatory system and crafting solutions to help improve the relationship between state government and business.
The Task Force, which will be led by Sen. Keith Faber, R-Celina, and Rep. Jim Zehringer, R-Fort Recovery, will travel the state in the coming months to talk with business owners, local chambers of commerce, economic development directors and any other member of the public about their experiences and their ideas for how to reform the process. Times and locations will be announced in the near future.
In the meantime, the General Assembly must remain committed to the growth of our business climate, particularly efforts to attract investment and create jobs. I understand many areas of Ohio’s economy are going through a tough period right now, as we have seen with DHL in Wilmington and the loss of manufacturing jobs around the state.
However, as we work in the short-term to help the affected workers and their families, we cannot afford to let this adversity stand in the way of all the positive steps we have made and continue to make to create good jobs for the long-term.
Columbus, OH 43215
Carey, R-Wellston, represents Ohio’s 17th State Senate District, which includes Chillicothe