COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Billions of dollars in tax breaks have gone unchecked for years in Ohio, until now. State legislative leaders recently launched a new committee to examine the more than $9 billion in tax credits, deductions, and exemptions Ohio hands out every year.
The move comes after they missed deadline after deadline to set it up. Eight months ago lawmakers voted to create a Tax Expenditure Review Committee to give a hard look at those tax breaks, but lawmakers failed to meet or even to assign anyone to the meeting until July.
“There was a window of time with which the first meeting was supposed to occur,” Said Wendy Patton with Policy Matters Ohio, a left-leaning non-profit government accountability organization. Tax breaks are crucial and needed in many areas but according to Patton, many in Ohio have been in place since the 1800s, and haven’t been given a second look. Currently there are tax breaks for people and businesses who share private jets, to business that pay taxes on time.
During Ohio’s budget shortfall crisis this year, while key services like education and transportation were getting gutted, tax breaks grew nearly ten percent, “It rises to $9.4 billion by 2019,” Patton said.
The Tax Expenditure Review Committee was supposed to be formed and meet by June 19, but lawmakers failed to meet that deadline.
However, House leaders say they were paying attention. According to Speaker of the House spokesman Brad Miller, “These issues have been at the forefront of the legislature’s attention during the first six months of this year through deliberations on the state budget. Ohio’s tax expenditures received substantial consideration in that time and were in no way being ignored. Now that the budget has passed, the committee can take the time it needs to provide further review between now and the start of the next budget cycle in two years.”
As the committee forms and plans its first meeting, Patton with Policy Matters Ohio hopes it leads to more government accountability and effectiveness, “It brings tax breaks into the sunlight,” Patton added.
As of August 1st, no meeting of the Tax Expenditure Review Committee has been planned, although all members have been appointed by House and Senate leaders. House and Senate leaders have appointed four Republicans and two Democrats to the new committee. House Republican leaders say it will play a crucial role in the next budget cycle.