The 129th Legislature is well underway, and there is certainly no shortage of challenges to address over the next two years. This General Assembly, I have been honored with the privilege of serving as the assistant majority whip of the House majority caucus, which will give me the opportunity to serve in a leadership role during one of the most crucial times in Ohio’s history.

It’s no secret that Ohio’s economy and business climate has been declining over the past few decades, a distressing trend that continues today. Before we are able to stop the steady flow of economic activity from our borders, we first need to consider which aspects of our business climate are causing Ohio to fall behind. Although we cannot entirely blame any one factor, we can certainly agree that all these factors together have made Ohio unable to keep up in the race for jobs. Now is the time to start addressing these hurdles that are blocking our economic success.

Even though the 129th General Assembly has only been in session for about a month now, members of the Ohio House have been working diligently to craft, introduce and fine-tune legislation to address Ohio’s economic woes. Many of these bills have the potential to motivate our citizens to remain within our borders and start a family, launch a business or retire.

One factor that has contributed to Ohio’s out-migration of hundreds of thousands of citizens is our burdensome estate tax, also known as the “death tax.” For more than 40 years, Ohio’s death tax has taken direct aim at our middle class, especially small business owners, farmers and homeowners. Today, our estate tax exemption is the lowest in the entire nation at $338,333, compared with an average exemption of about $2 million for the other 16 states that levy this tax.

To address the harmful repercussions of this tax, Rep. Jay Hottinger and I introduced House Bill 3 earlier this month to repeal Ohio’s estate tax and more closely align our tax code with those of other states. Thirty-three other states do not have an estate tax, and it is long overdue that we make an effort to revamp our tax code so we can compete nationally and globally. We cannot afford to give businesses another reason to leave our state for better tax climates, and I truly believe that repealing the estate tax is a vital first step.

I also cosponsored legislation that would ensure that Ohio’s government is operating as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. House Bill 2, which was introduced by Reps. Todd Snitchler and Peter Stautberg, would compel the Ohio Auditor of State to conduct biennial performance audits of state agencies. These audits would identify inefficient or outdated programs while allowing the state to regularly evaluate the practicality of state-funded agencies, which I fully support as we face a difficult budget in which every dollar must be spent judiciously. I think that this is a worthwhile effort that should be taken advantage of even in a good economy, but it is a necessity during a difficult economy.

It may be easy to rely on entrenched spending habits and a long-established status quo, but it is much more rewarding to examine how our government is running and what we can do to make structural improvements. There will always be naysayers who fear the consequences of stepping outside of their comfort zones, daring to break the mold of the past. But the truth is, we live in a highly competitive—and highly mobile—national economy in which packing up and crossing over into a border state is relatively simple. And with hundreds of thousands of Ohioans speaking with their feet and fleeing our state, we need to finally do what inevitably needs to be done.

The question is, how much longer will Ohio be able to stand on its own two feet before our reliance on high taxes drive out the rest of our entrepreneurs and businesses to neighboring states? It’s important that we never discover the answer to this question.


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