Paul E. Kostyu reports:
Income taxes on small businesses will go down next year, Ohio’s governor promised Wednesday, but he wouldn’t say by how much.
In a year-end press conference with statehouse reporters on Wednesday, Gov. John R. Kasich said the “income tax is too darn high. We’ve lowered it, but it’s too high.”
Kasich said he will send legislation to the General Assembly to lower income taxes on small businesses, but he didn’t say how that would be accomplished or by how much. The state income tax rate ranges from 0.58 percent to 5.92 percent based on income.
Incorporated businesses pay federal income taxes, state income taxes in most states and local income taxes in some areas. The bulk of small businesses in Ohio pay their taxes through the personal income tax, according to the Kasich administration.
“We’re talking about something that’s reasonable,” he said. “We can significantly lower it to help us grow faster.”
Democrats criticized the governor for not being specific.
“The governor’s comments covered a wide range of issues,” said Senate Minority Leader Eric H. Kearney, D-North Avondale, in a statement, “but offered few specifics about his forthcoming proposals for school funding and tax reform. If he truly wants to be bipartisan, then Gov. Kasich should invite Democrats to be part of the process from beginning to end.”
The governor promised surprises in his school funding formula, which will be released in early February, but he would not provide details to reporters.
Kasich will try again next year to have the Legislature pass a hike in the state’s severance tax on the oil and natural gas industry, which he wanted to use to lower income taxes. It was one of his signature efforts that failed to get past fellow Republicans who control both chambers.
The oil and gas industry fought the measure. Last week, Thomas E. Stewart, executive vice president of the Ohio and Gas Association, told The Enquirer changing the severance tax is unnecessary and he promised to continue that fight if the issue is revisited next year. The Ohio Farm Bureau also opposes raising the severance tax to pay for lower income taxes.
House Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, and Senate President Tom Niehaus, R-New Richmond, both of whom joined Kasich at the press conference, said the measure will pass in the next session of the General Assembly. Niehaus is not returning to the Senate because of term limits.
“The caucus will vote for it, no question about it,” said Batchelder, who celebrated his 70th birthday Wednesday. He added that questions remain about the governor’s proposal and he wouldn’t speculate about how soon the severance tax would be addressed.
The governor spent the bulk of the 90-minute press conference talking or hearing from others about the successes of his administration over the past two years, even though he said he wasn’t there to brag about himself.
“We just happen to be driving the car,” he said.
Asked twice by The Enquirer about a petition effort to put a right-to-work initiative on the ballot next year, Kasich refused to say whether he would support or oppose it.
He said, instead, that he is focused on his agenda much like a race horse outfitted with blinders.
He also refused to answer a question from another reporter about whether his administration would take advantage of super Republican majorities in both the Ohio House and Senate to put issues on the ballot, such as right-to-work, without worrying about Democratic opposition.
“Next question” was Kasich’s response.
In questions related to the shootings in Newtown, Conn. last week, the governor said improving mental health services in Ohio is a priority for him.
“We absolutely know we don’t have the safety net at the local level,” he said. “We are going to do the best we can to provide the resources. It can’t be done all at once. We have to have a steady path towards helping people and trying to build that safety net at the local level. All social services are a work in progress.”
House Minority Leader Armond Budish, D-Beachwood, took the governor to task over that comment.
The governor and Republican leadership, Budish said in a statement, “have balanced the budget on the backs of our kids by slashing funds from education, on the backs of local taxpayers forcing local communities to place hundreds of levies on the ballot, and on the backs of those most in need of social services by slashing funds to people who are poor, older and disable.”
The governor didn’t take a position when asked if he supported arming teachers or at least having a gun in a locked box in schools.
“The experts are going to look at this,” he said. “They’re going to come back and make recommendations on a whole host of things.”
He said people across the administration are working “to do everything we can for school safety and let ideas get out on the table. Once they’re all out there, we’ll see what makes the most sense for our partners and many interested parties.”