The Post, 10/4

On the Ohio House's first session day of the General Assembly, right after I had been sworn in as speaker, I can remember addressing everyone in the chamber with a message of reducing taxes on Ohioans. It was - and still is - very important to me that we do everything we can to help spur job creation, as well as give people a reason to stay in Ohio and start their families.

Overall, the question on my mind that day was whether the current legislature would be courageous enough to do what had to be done in order to revive the economy. In large part, I believe we have made many of the necessary reforms to get on the right track. This includes reducing the tax rate on our fellow citizens. We truly prioritized making these changes, the first of which was the lowering of the state income tax by 4.2 percent. This change, which took effect in January 2011, will save Ohio taxpayers almost $1 billion over the next two years.

Additionally, through House Bill 58, we were able to simplify a complex tax code, saving taxpayers an estimated $48.5 million over the next three fiscal years. Furthermore, it provided the tax relief that Ohio's families and small businesses so desperately need in a hard-pressed economy, helping to keep jobs in our state at the same time.

Soon thereafter, we began our hard work on the state operating budget. Though we had been left with an $8 billion deficit, the majority caucus during this General Assembly pledged to erase the deficit without raising taxes, and we kept our word.

Eliminating the estate tax at the beginning of 2013 was a major aspect of what needed to be done in the budget. This helps families, small businesses and farmers across the state who unfairly pay the double-tax right now. Ohio has been one of the most expensive places to die, with some family businesses losing nearly half of everything they worked so hard for. Now, we will have the incentive to keep jobs and business in Ohio, along with the seniors who will choose to stay in our borders.

Additionally, the budget included InvestOhio. Under this program, Ohioans who make an investment in a small business and hold that investment for two years can receive a tax credit of up to 10 percent. Our state's high tax rates have driven away investment dollars at a time when we need them most. With more than half of Ohioans being employed by small businesses and small businesses creating 70 percent of jobs, InvestOhio will surely help grow the enterprises. In fact, it is said to encourage up to $1 billion in new, job-creating investments over the next two years, plus additional investment in the future.

These are significant reforms, and on top of that, we have made other efforts to bring relief to Ohio's taxpayers. These include extending the Historic Building Preservation Tax Credit program and finding ways of saving state and local governments money so that they won't have to raise your taxes. Performing audits on state agencies and taking control of ever-increasing, overly-expensive benefits for public employees will help accomplish this goal.

As these tax changes begin to take shape over the coming months and years, I sincerely hope that you will find this legislation encouraging. Our intention has been to give added relief to families like yours and pull Ohio out of troubling economic times.


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