In the past couple weeks, thousands of working class and middle class Ohioans have marched as part of a larger Main Street Movement against Gov. John Kasich’s (R-OH) effort to effectively gut the collective bargaining rights of public sector unions in his state with Senate Bill 5. The effort is similar to Gov. Scott Walker’s (R-WI) own campaign against his state’s public employee unions.
Kasich claims that his proposal is “designed to fight joblessness and poverty” and that it is necessary to be able to overcome his state’s budget deficit. To justify this push, he cites figures like one from the Office of Collective Bargaining that says his state would save $1.3 billion if his anti-union proposal were enacted. While it’s true that this is a lot of money, and that the state is facing future budgetary problems, what it avoids is something very crucial: responsibility.
Ohio’s budget deficit, like most states’ current deficits, is largely a result of the economic recession. And the Great Recession wasn’t caused by teachers, firefighters, policemen, and other hardworking middle class Americans — it was caused by Wall Street.
So it is simply unfair for Kasich to try to balance his state’s budget on the backs of people who didn’t cause the problem and who have already suffered the most during the recession. Rather, a more just and fair way for the state to get revenue would be to crack down on the state’s special interest tax dodging and special loopholes and tax breaks for the rich. In fact, doing so would save even more money than decimating the rights of Ohio’s public sector unions. ThinkProgress has assembled a far from comprehensive list of some of these special interest tax breaks and loopholes that could help balance the budget and end any need for a war on unions:
- End Ohio’s 2005 Tax Cuts For The Wealthiest And Make Them Pay Their Fair Share: In 2005, Ohio enacted a sweeping overhaul of its tax system which involved doing away the state’s tax on corporate profits and major reductions in the state income tax. More than 40 percent of these tax cuts went to the richest 5 percent of Ohioans, and in 2006, “the richest one percent of Ohio families took in slightly more pretax income than the bottom half of the population.” Restoring the 7.5 percent income tax rate on income over $200,000 and creating a new 8.5 percent rate on income above $500,000 would generate $950 million a year.
- End The Exemption For Pollution-Control Equipment: Since 1963, Ohio has provided a sales-tax exemption for pollution-control equipment. While this may have made sense in the days before the creation of the EPA, most of the current equipment purchases that utilities make are now mandated, meaning that the state is essentially incentivizing something that is basically going to happen anyway — making the exemption nothing more than a giveaway to utilities. Ending this exemption would save $2.3 million.
- End The Social Security And Railroad Retirement Benefits Exemption For Rich Ohioans Who Don’t Need It: Ohio currently provides a special tax exemption for Social Security and railroad retirement benefits for its residents. While this is likely a positive ting for most Ohioans, it currently goes to even the wealthiest who clearly do not need it. In 2006, 36,00 Ohioans with taxable income above $150,00 received this exemption, costing more than $45 million. “The 6,591 taxpayers with income above $500,000 saved $10 million that year because of the exemption.” Ending the exemption for those with incomes of $150,000 or more would save the state $55 million.
- Revoke Special Interest Breaks Given Under The Commercial Activity Tax: These special tax breaks under this tax allow mega companies to “write off” losses incurred before the phasing out of the state’s corporate income tax until 2030, which would cost the state $45 million a year. As Policy Matters Ohio writes of the breaks, “Lose a little, and the state can’t help you. Lose a bundle, and you qualify.”
- End Property-Tax Reduction Programs For Rich Ohioans Who Don’t Need Them: Limiting the homestead property tax reductions in the state to seniors who are in the middle class or poor would save the state an estimated $118 million a year.
- End Ohioan Banks’ Special Tax Expenditure: Ohioan banks profit off of an exemption that currently hands them $177 million each year, which is “worth more than their expected total corporate franchise tax.”
- End The Tax Exemption On Vehicles For Use Out Of State: This tax exemption, which serves little purpose other than to buoy the sales of certain vehicles, costs the state $69 million every year.
- End The Special Income Tax Deduction For Gambling Losses: In a bizarre move, the Ohioan legislature approved a “new income-tax deduction for gambling losses that could cost the state $80 million every two years, starting a few months after Ohio’s new casinos are expected to open.”
Nearly 10,000 people marched against against SB 5 yesterday as the bill is expected to come up for a vote this week and was passed in committee this morning. The Ohio Senate is expected to take up the bill as early as this week, and in the Ohio House — which is composed of 59 Republicans and 40 Democrats — the measure is also expected to pass easily, unless grassroots pressure is able to forces some Republican defections. If the bill passes, its supporters will essentially be telling Ohio that they thought middle class Ohioans like those belonging to public employee unions should have to sacrifice while asking nothing more of the richest Ohioans.
The Main Street Movement showed up in force outside the Georgia capitol, as hundreds of students marched against dramatic cuts to tuition aid.