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       A bill requiring boards of county commissioners to receive voter approval before enacting an increase on a county sales or use tax has had one hearing in the state legislature.

        In recent testimony to the House State and Local Government Committee, Rep. Niraj Antani, R – Miami Township, said he is sponsoring HB 92 to allow voters to be heard on tax matters at the county level.

        Currently, all Ohio counties and eight transit authorities levy local sales and use taxes at rates of 0.5 percent to 1.5 percent. The local taxes ‘piggy-back’ on the state sales tax.

        Two state statutes determine whether a vote is required.

        Under one statute, a tax of up to 1 percent may be levied to raise general fund revenue, pay for courts and other criminal justice services or fund a regional transportation improvement project without the say of voters, according to an analysis of the bill by the Legislative Service Commission.

        Under another statute, a tax of up to 0.5 percent may be levied for funding one or a combination of several services or projects, including debt service for convention facilities authorities, transit authorities, permanent improvements, 9-1-1 systems, detention facilities, agricultural easements, emergency medical services, regional transportation improvements, environmentally distressed watershed districts and general fund revenue. Voter approval is needed if the tax would fund more than one purpose or any one purpose other than general fund revenue or distressed watershed districts.

        Boards of commissioners have the option of placing the tax before voters even if not required to do so and the law allows voters to try to repeal rate increases through the referendum process.

        Under HB 92, all rate increases proposed in a resolution adopted on or after the bill’s effective date would be subject to prior voter approval.

        In testimony last month to the State and Local Government Committee, Antani said citizens should have a voice in local taxes and cited a recent decision by the commissioners in Montgomery County, his home district, to increase the county sales tax without citizens having a chance to vote on it.

        School boards, townships and municipalities must place tax levies on the ballot for approval, he said.

        “This bill would leave the question of tax increases up to voters, the ones who would be paying the tax, and the ones who should have a voice in the matter,” Antani told the committee.

        HB 92 is similar to a bill Antani introduced last fall that didn’t make it out of committee prior to the end of the legislature’s 2018 session.

        It drew opposition from the County Commissioners Association of Ohio as well as commissioners from Gallia, Shelby, Richland and Wood counties.

        The Wood County commissioners said the bill would increase costs for county taxpayers to pay for elections and state law already requires two public hearings be held prior to a rate increase.

        Counties also need flexibility to adjust revenue sources, they said to the committee.

        “Counties face significant expenses today to combat the opioid epidemic. They also face challenges related to an evolving retail environment that is increasingly based on internet sales rather than brick and mortar stores. The costs of road and bridge maintenance and construction are an ever increasing burden. Being able to adjust revenue sources to provide the greatest level of service to taxpayers is vitally important,” their testimony says.

        Jon Honeck, senior policy analyst for the commissioners association, told the committee last year the current process is “working well and has been tested by decades of experience.”

        “County commissioners have done the best they can to manage budgets through difficult economic times and dwindling state revenue sharing. Commissioners will take responsibility for all of the difficult fiscal decisions they have to make. Current law strikes a balance between commissioners’ authority to raise sales taxes and giving the public a check on that authority,” he said.

  1. Todd Smith, R- Germantown, is a co-sponsor of HB 92.

       

       

       

 

abortion

The Ohio legislature has passed a bill that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected. In practice, that would make abortion illegal after six weeks.
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