Ka­sich ties give cham­ber re­port clout

State busi­ness group makes bud­get rec­om­men­da­tions.

Dayton Daily News - - OPINION - By Wil­liam Her­shey Colum­bus Bureau

COLUM­BUS — The Ohio Cham­ber of Com­merce, the state’s largest busi­ness ad­vo­cacy group with more than 4,000 mem­bers, made his­tory last Septem­ber when it en­dorsed Repub­li­can John Ka­sich for gover­nor.

It was the first such en­dorse­ment in the cham­ber’s 117-year his­tory.

The strong ties be­tween the busi­ness group and Ka­sich could give the sweep­ing state bud­get changes un­veiled Mon­day by the cham­ber in a re­port ti­tled “Re­design­ing Ohio” ex­tra clout.

“I think the Cham­ber of Com­merce’s bud­get rec­om­men­da­tions are likely to be taken very se­ri­ously by the new ad­min­is­tra­tion, and by the Gen­eral Assem­bly,” said John Green, di­rec­tor of the Bliss In­sti­tute of Ap­plied Pol­i­tics at the Uni­ver­sity of Akron.

That doesn’t mean Ka­sich and the law­mak­ers will ac­cept the en­tire plan pro­posed by the state cham­ber and eight metro cham­bers — in­clud­ing the Day­ton Area Cham­ber of Com­merce — cau­tioned Green.

“Of course, elected of­fi­cials have to weigh a wide va­ri­ety of con­sid­er­a­tions in a bud­get whereas a pri­vate group can ad­vo­cate its rec­om­men­da­tion with­out as many con­sid­er­a­tions in mind,” he said.

De­spite the state cham­ber’s close ties to the GOP, there’s a bi­par­ti­san fla­vor to the rec­om­men­da­tions that back­ers say could save $1.4 bil­lion in the next two years and bil­lions more in the fu­ture.

To pre­pare the $150,000 re­port, the cham­bers worked with pol­icy con­sul­tant David Os­borne, a for­mer ad­viser to Demo­cratic Vice Pres­i­dent Al Gore and Greg Brown­ing, state bud­get di­rec­tor un­der Repub­li­can Gov. Ge­orge Voinovich.

While the po­ten­tial fi­nan­cial pain that the changes could cause to busi­nesses, home­own­ers, se­nior cit­i­zens and state em­ploy­ees might take cen­ter stage, the em­pha­sis of the re­port looks at mak­ing changes in how the state crafts the bud­get, with a po­ten­tial $8 bil­lion rev­enue short­fall loom­ing in the next two years.

The change would em­brace “bud­get­ing for out­comes,” a process de­vel­oped by Os­borne that fo­cuses on what mat­ters most to cit­i­zens from state govern­ment and elim­i­nat­ing pro­grams that don’t con­trib­ute to the out­comes val­ued by cit­i­zens.

State pro­grams would be ranked from the most to least ef­fec­tive.

The re­port does not deal with ei­ther Med­i­caid, the govern­ment health in­surance for the poor, or ed­u­ca­tion — which con­sume much of the state’s rev­enue. The Ohio Busi­ness Roundtable is deal­ing with those is­sues sep­a­rately, cham­ber of­fi­cials said.

Ka­sich spokesman Rob Ni­chols wel­comed the re­port, but cau­tioned that Ka­sich wouldn’t back any­thing that would re­sult in a tax in­crease — a vi­o­la­tion of the no-tax in­crease pledge Ka­sich signed with Amer­i­cans for Tax Re­form.

One “Re­design­ing Ohio” pro­posal praised by cur­rent House Fi­nance Com­mit­tee Chair­man Ver­non Sykes, DAkron, calls for ex­am­in­ing tax breaks given to busi­nesses that cost the state $7.7 bil­lion an­nu­ally. The plan would keep those that pro­duce eco­nomic growth and end those that don’t.

A sec­ond pro­posal would limit the homestead real es­tate prop­erty tax ex­emp­tion sub­sidy for se­nior cit­i­zens to those with $30,000 or less in an­nual in­come.

A third pro­posal would end a state sub­sidy for new tax levies that pays 12½ cents of ev­ery lo­cal real es­tate prop­erty tax dol­lar col­lected on pri­mary res­i­dences.

Joshua Culling, state af­fairs man­ager for Amer­i­cans for Tax Re­form, said that changes would not be in vi­o­la­tion of Ka­sich’s pledge if they were off­set by other tax cuts to en­sure they were rev­enue neu­tral.

The re­port also rec­om­mends re­duc­ing costs by clos­ing three pris­ons in two years and mov­ing non­vi­o­lent of­fend­ers from prison to non­res­i­den­tial, com­mu­nity-based mon­i­tor­ing and treat­ment.

One of the most po­ten­tially con­tentious rec­om­men­da­tions calls for end­ing au­to­matic pay raises through step in­creases and longevity pay for state em­ploy­ees and bas­ing merit bonuses on “ob­jec­tive per­for­mance mea­sures.”

Brian Rothen­berg, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the lib­eral ad­vo­cacy group Pro­gressOhio, called it “fun­da­men­tally un­fair” and a re­sult of the sup­port pub­lic em­ployee unions gave Demo­cratic Gov. Ted Strick­land.

Linda Wog­gon, cham­ber vice pres­i­dent for gov­ern­men­tal af­fairs, said the pro­posal was “ab­so­lutely not pay­back.”

“It (the re­port) has been in the works for over a year. We briefed both cam­paigns,” Wog­gon said.

Chris Ker­sh­ner, vice pres­i­dent of pub­lic pol­icy and eco­nomic devel­op­ment for the Day­ton Area Cham­ber of Com­merce, said the changes are “go­ing to take po­lit­i­cal will to ac­com­plish.”

To read the com­plete “Re­design­ing Ohio” re­port visit www.ohiocham­ber.com. Con­tact this re­porter at (614) 224-1608 or wher­shey@Day­ton Dai­lyNews.com.

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