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State Legislators Send Mixed Messages on Tax Cuts

photo of the Ohio Statehouse
Ohio Statehouse Building

State lawmakers have touted their support of a new law that eliminates the so-called “pink tax” on feminine hygiene products and gives a tax credit to teachers buying supplies. It also restores a $250,000 income tax break for lawyers and lobbyists. It can seem to be a mixed message Republican leaders are sending on tax policy.

This year bills have been introduced to exempt from sales tax nonprofit gym memberships, boat storage fees and children’s diapers – and one to expand the list of exempt items in the sales tax holiday weekend in August. House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) admits he personally likes a bill to make textbooks sales tax free, but says he’s concerned because he wants to keep the tax rate low.

“Whenever you exempt certain people or certain classes because of their business activities or because of something they possibly are buying,” said Householder.  “It’s going to be very difficult for us in the future to get to that low tax rate because we have all these exemptions and credits.”

State Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) says he wants to hear the merits of these proposals.

“I’m, generally speaking, not in favor of carve outs,” said Obhof.  “I think that the pink tax was different because that was a medical necessity and something half the population basically has to do.”

Eliminating the $250,000 income tax break for lawyers and lobbyists was part of the budget, but then was restored because Householder said state tax forms don’t include occupations, so there was no way to enforce it. The progressive leaning Policy Matters estimated keeping that break just for those two occupations could save the state $25 million a year. But it says that small business tax deduction for LLCs, partnerships and others overall adds up to a billion dollars a year.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.