In 2005, the Ohio Legislature adopted, and then-Governor Taft signed into law, House Bill 66, a sweeping change to the personal income tax that reduced tax rates "across the board" by twenty-one percent over five years. The cuts were passed with the promise that they would improve economic conditions for Ohioans and make the state more competitive both nationally and internationally. How did the tax cuts perform? Did Ohio see even miniscule growth in key economic indicators?
According to Policy Matters Ohio the answer is simply no.
In a report released this week, Policy Matters Ohio writes, "The results are very clear. Even before the current economic downturn, Ohio was not keeping pace with the nation. Key economic trends continued to go in the wrong direction after the tax overhaul. The report finds unmistakable evidence that the state's relative economic decline accelerated since H.B. 66 was passed." In terms of important economic indicators including economic output, productivity, manufacturing and income, Ohioans haven't enjoyed any of the promises that tax cuts were said to provide.
The enormous tax cuts have already taken millions of dollars away from government's ability to do its work and the state has little to show for its efforts. In fact, according to the report, the state joins the majority of others in facing an enormous budget shortfall of between $4.7 billion and $7.3 billion for the next budget biennium and the gap between services available and those needed is actually widening.
Despite the drastic mistake policymakers made when passing these cuts, it's not too late to undo the mess. Governor Strickland and legislators would be wise to follow the recommendations of Policy Matters Ohio and revise the current income tax structure, introduce an EITC and shore up the state's business taxes.