Across the state, communities deferred repair of aging infrastructure, left parks untended, dimmed streetlights, furloughed police and firefighters, and closed pools and recreation centers. Seniors lost transportation and, in some cases, meals. One substance abuse agency sold raffle tickets to raise money.
The pending budget bill just passed by the House does not restore revenue sharing for school and local governments, although funds are available and local aid has been cut nearly in half, compared to historical levels. Spending is being cut so that taxes can be slashed. But states that reduced income taxes in the 1990s saw lower income growth and much lower job growth than states that did not make such changes, on average. Ohio, which cut its income tax in 2005, has seen slower job growth than the rest of the nation since.
There are more effective ways to create jobs — ways that, in contrast to tax cutting, would strengthen our communities. According to the Health Policy Institute of Ohio, expanding Medicaid to cover more low-income working families would bring $16.7 billion in federal dollars to Ohio over the next nine years and create an estimated 27,000 new jobs. In Butler, Warren, Montgomery and Clark counties, close to 38,000 low-wage workers would gain health care. By 2015, about 3,000 local health jobs would be created in these counties and $4.7 million in new revenues would be generated to help restore services.
These are some of the smart reasons that Gov. John Kasich included Medicaid expansion in his budget. Unfortunately, the legislature took it out and, while Medicaid might get expanded some other way, right now Ohio could lose this federal money and these jobs.
Cutting taxes for the wealthy deprives our cities and counties of revenue they need to have strong job markets. Communities suffer when public safety is at risk, parks are unclean, libraries can’t buy books and schools are falling behind. This can mean that housing values drop, and economies spiral downward.
The public sector provides a platform for private development. Good schools, affordable colleges, safe streets and clean pools are part of that platform. Good roads, strong bridges, and efficient and modern ports are also essential. A strong, healthy, well-trained workforce is at the heart.
It takes the public and private sectors working in harmony to create a strong economy. We need to work together, restore investment, and make our towns and cities welcoming places for people to live, work and build their businesses and their lives.