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Brown touts record to local business leaders

Published: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 @ 8:00 PM
Updated: Tuesday, September 18, 2012 @ 8:00 PM

Complete coverage

The U.S. Senate race in Ohio is one of the most expensive in the nation and key to which party controls the Senate. We’re following this race closely and covering both sides. Here’s a look at some of our coverage:

* On Sept. 11, Republican candidate Josh Mandel addressed the Dayton Chamber of Commerce and we had full coverage in last Wednesday’s paper.

* On Sept. 30: We will have profiles of both Josh Mandel and Sherrod Brown in the newspaper.

* In October: Brown and Mandel will have three debates and we will cover all of them. The debates are Oct. 15, 18, 25. Our Columbus Bureau reporter Laura A. Bischoff will be one of the journalists questioning the candidates on Oct. 18.

* Online: Last month, we took an in-depth look at where Brown and Mandel stand on issues such as the debt and health care. Read those stories at

Democratic U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown discussed manufacturing, health care and the federal budget Tuesday, as he addressed the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce seven weeks before the November election.

Brown, finishing his first Senate term after 14 years in the U.S. House, is running against Republican state Treasurer Josh Mandel, who addressed the Dayton Chamber last week. Most recent polls show Brown with a single-digit lead.

Brown said America needs a cohesive manufacturing strategy, including better workforce training, after losing 5 million manufacturing jobs from 2000 to 2010.

“Since early 2010, we’ve gained about 500,000 manufacturing jobs nationally – nothing like the 5 million we lost – but it was the first time … we had job growth in manufacturing since something like 1999,” Brown said.

Brown repeatedly pointed out Ohio companies and Miami Valley business leaders he has worked with. He pointed to his efforts to help expand the Ohio supply chain for Airbus, and spotlighted his continuing fight against China’s trade policies, listing Harco Manufacturing Group of Moraine as a local business that is hurt by currency manipulation.

During a question-and-answer session, two business owners quizzed him on his support for health care reform, with one of them blaming the Affordable Care Act for a recent surge in health care costs for his company. Brown said he was proud to have voted for the bill.

“Costs (to employers and employees) are not going up as sharply, partly because of this health care law,” Brown said after Tuesday’s event.

Brown called the federal sequestration budget process “a bipartisan creation of Congress.”

“I can’t imagine we can deal with sequestration without some defense cuts, some non-defense discretionary cuts, some work on Medicare … something about Medicaid and something with taxes,” Brown said. “I can’t imagine that we won’t do all of the above. Because you can’t get to the numbers you’ve gotta get just by cutting Head Start, just cutting National Institutes of Health and EPA enforcement.”

Travis Considine, spokesman for Mandel’s campaign, said Mandel “supports a budget that protects defense from sequestration by switching the scheduled cuts to non-defense discretionary spending this year and going forward.” He also argued that the health care bill Brown supported would kill Ohio jobs and said 66 percent of Ohio voters “symbolically rejected” health care reform when they voted for a 2011 state issue on freedom to choose health care coverage.

Panel begins work to fill $1.05 billion state budget revenue shortfall

Published: Thursday, June 22, 2017 @ 1:36 PM
Updated: Thursday, June 22, 2017 @ 6:56 PM

            Democrats say state budget plain will derail the economy

As state revenues continue to fall short of projections, the Ohio legislature’s six-person conference committee on Thursday began work on the 2018-2019 budget.

“These estimates are a good example of why Senate leadership in the new budget reduced the growth of government, while investing in key programs like addiction treatment and education,” said John Fortney, spokesman for the Ohio Senate Majority Caucus. “Increasing taxes or increasing spending while revenue estimates decline is not being responsible to taxpayers.”

Fortney said the legislature is sticking with the $1.05 billion revenue shortfall projection the legislature received from the non-partisan Legislative Service Commission. The conference committee will iron out differences between the $132.7 billion budget approved by the Senate Wednesday and the one approved by the House of Representatives earlier this year.

On Thursday Tim Keen, director of Ohio’s office of budget and management, said revenues - particularly personal income taxes and non-automotive sales taxes - are continuing to fall short of projections. Since February revenues for fiscal year 2017 are down nearly $355 million compared to projections, Keen said.

For fiscal years 2018 and 2019 Keen projects revenues will be $949.1 million less than projected.

That projection is likely low, said Jordan Plottner, spokesman for the Ohio House Democratic Caucus, because it is based on unrealistic economic growth.

“They’re assuming the Ohio economy magically takes off in ‘18 and ‘19,” Plottner said. “But their policies over the last six years have brought a record amount of low wage jobs to the state while our economy spirals downward.”

Democrats denounced the Republican-drafted budgets as bad for working Ohioans, the economy and people who would go without health care coverage under a proposed freeze on Medicaid expansion enrollment.

RELATED: Ohio Senate wants to freeze new enrollment in expanded Medicaid program “For a lot of Ohioans it feels like an economic nightmare,” said Ohio House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton. “A third of the jobs created post-recession pay poverty wages. That is not the kind of economy we want for Ohioans.”

RELATED: Ohio leaders debate how to pay for fight against opioid addiction Republicans had a different view.

The Senate-passed budget “invests in essential public services, maintains historic levels of state aid for education and preserves key tax reforms while reducing government overhead and closing a projected revenue shortfall of roughly $1 billion,” said Ohio Sen. President Larry Obhof, R-Medina.

RELATED: Senate looks to end Medicaid expansion enrollment

The Democrats’ amendments to the budgets were nearly uniformly rejected by the Republican legislature, including proposals to scrap a small business tax exemption, avoid the Republican budget cuts, and reject the freeze on Medicaid expansion enrollment. Democrats wanted to use revenue from repealing the tax break to put more money into schools, local governments, health care, higher education and to fight the opioid crisis.

RELATED: State may reduce a tax break for small businesses

“Yet again, Democrats sang a familiar tune in today’s press conference - raise taxes, increase spending, drain the rainy day fund,” said Brad Miller, spokesman for the Ohio House Republican Caucus. “The same kind of ideas that, under Democrat control, put Ohio in a tailspin seven years ago.”

RELATED: Businesses may face penalties for prohibiting guns in private vehicles

Ohio’s General Assembly state budget conference committee

Rep. Ryan Smith, R-Bidewll

Rep. Scott Ryan, R-Newark

State Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire

Sen. Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton

Sen. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville

Sen. Mike Skindell, D-Lakewood

Pizza may soon be delivered by robot in Ohio

Published: Thursday, June 22, 2017 @ 1:45 PM
Updated: Thursday, June 22, 2017 @ 1:45 PM

Pizza may soon be delivered by robot in Ohio. Starship Press Club photo

If things pan out the pizza dude bringing you your hot slices could be a compact little robot that looks pretty much like a cooler on wheels.

The Ohio Senate version of the state budget authorizes the use of a “personal delivery device” that is electrically powered and “intended to transport property on sidewalks and crosswalks.” Known as a PDD, the device cannot weigh more than 90 pounds or go faster than 10 miles per hour, quite a bit slower than those pizza delivery cars you sometimes see tearing down your street.

RELATED: $132.7 billion state budget passes Senate

The business operating it would have to follow all local regulations and actively control or monitor it as it buzzes down the sidewalk, according to the Senate budget language.

Robots made by London-based Starship Technologies are already delivering pizzas in Washington D.C. and other states are looking at making it legal for them to be on public sidewalks, according to a March NPR story.

RELATED: Hungry? Call Your Neighborhood Delivery Robot

Starship Technologies was founded by two Skype co-founders, Janus Friis and Ahti Heinla.

According to NPR, each of the robots weighs 35 pounds and goes about 4 miles per hour on average. Lights and a tall orange flag make it visible and the locked cargo hold can be unlocked by the customer using a smart phone app.

The robot runs on its own using artificial intelligence technology, but a human operator can intervene if it runs into trouble.

If someone tries to steal it an alarm sounds, cameras take pictures, its location can be tracked and the operator can speak to the thief, according to NPR.

The senate robot delivery provision is not in the version of the budget passed by the Ohio House of Representatives. Differences between the two will be worked out in a conference committee that began meeting today.

RELATED: Democrats say state budget plan will derail economy

With budget deliberations expected to be lengthy, one presumes there will be pizza delivered the old-fashioned way to hungry legislators today.

RELATED: Driving while distracted could cost you $100 in Ohio

Ohio leaders debate how to pay for fight against opioid addiction

Published: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 @ 7:38 PM
Updated: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 @ 8:36 PM

More than $1 billion in federal grant money is available nationwide for communities looking to combat the overdose epidemic as deaths continues to rise in Clark County. CHRIS STEWART/STAFF
Staff Writer

Fighting Ohio’s opioid addiction crisis is shaping up to be one of the key challenges as lawmakers debate a final state budget in the coming week.

The Republican-dominated Ohio Senate on Wednesday thwarted Democratic efforts to get a Medicaid expansion freeze taken out of the proposed budget and to repeal a tax break for small businesses.

The Senate passed a $132.7 billion, two-year state budget that closes a $1.05 billion annual revenue shortfall by making cuts.

The budget passed, 24-8. The House already passed its version of the budget and voted late Wednesday to reject the Senate version.

Today a conference committee made up of members from both houses will iron out differences between the two. One of the main sticking points will center around how to fund the state’s fight against opioid addiction.

A final vote will occur next week and a balanced 2018-2019 budget must be on Gov. John Kasich’s desk by June 30.

The Senate budget proposes freezing new enrollment in the expanded Medicaid program starting on July 1, 2018. The bill also adds work requirements for Medicaid recipients.

RELATED: Senate looks to end Medicaid expansion enrollment

Democrats on Wednesday tried to get the Medicaid changes taken out of the bill.

“We must do more to protect this life-saving coverage,” said Assistant Minority Charleta Tavares, D-Columbus. “Health care is essential to making sure that someone is ready to learn and ready to earn.”

In urging defeat of the Democrats’ amendment, Sen. Scott Oelslager, R-North Canton, said, “We had long discussions on how to deal with this issue and how to be fair to those who are covered and the taxpayers of Ohio.”

He said people would have a year to sign up before the freeze takes effect.

“The freeze will help us evaluate where the budget is a year from now (and) let us see what’s happening in Washington with this program,” said Oelslager, who chairs the Senate Finance Committee. “Nobody knows what’s happening in Washington, period.”

Currently the federal government pays 90 percent of the cost of the Medicaid expansion but the U.S. House-passed American Health Care Act cuts Medicaid funding. Republican leaders in the U.S. Senate are working on their version of health care reform behind closed doors so it is unknown what their plans are for Medicaid.

The Ohio Department of Medicaid is reviewing the Ohio Senate freeze proposal, said Brittany Warner, spokeswoman.

The state’s Medicaid expansion covered 725,504 people in May, up from 707,762 in May 2016, Warner said.

Monthly enrollment fluctuates but in some months enrollment has increased by 1,000 to 3,000 people, according to data provided by Warner.

Tax cut for small businesses

The Senate budget also includes an amendment limiting the state Controlling Board’s ability to authorize a “significant expenditure” that has not been approved by the legislature.

Kasich sidestepped the legislature in 2013 by using a Controlling Board vote to expand Medicaid under the provisions of the federal Affordable Care Act. The change took effect Jan. 1, 2014.

Kasich declined to comment directly on the Senate’s proposed changes to Medicaid and the Controlling Board’s authority.

RELATED: Medicaid coverage for 715K Ohioans hangs in balance as debate rages

Democrats also failed to get into the state budget an amendment repealing a small business tax exemption.

The tax break at issue is an exemption that allows certain small businesses to avoid taxes on the first $250,000 of earnings. Those businesses also pay a maximum of 3 percent on additional income, rather than the 4.9 percent other businesses pay. Enacted in 2013 and 2015, the exemption covers businesses that organize as partnerships, sole proprietors or limited liability corporations.

RELATED: State may reduce a tax break for small businessesThe non-partisan Ohio Legislative Service Commission has said that Ohio would gain $1.1 billion annually if the tax break were not in place.

The tax break is “irresponsible tax policy,” Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-Cincinnati, said during the Senate budget hearing.

RELATED: Ohio Senate leaders say state facing $1B budget gapHe said not only does the budget proposal ignore the tax break as the chief source of the shortfall, but it also makes cuts even though the state has a $2 billion rainy day fund.

Oelslager said Democrats are calling for a tax increase on businesses, including some owned by middle class people. He said the tax should not be repealed and that he’s heard stories about businesses creating jobs and making capital improvements because of the tax.

“We have lifted the spirits of these people, given them confidence to open the doors every day,” Oelslager said at the hearing.

The Senate on Wednesday tabled a Democratic proposal to repeal the tax break and use the revenue to balance the budget without cuts while spending the remaining additional revenue on schools, local governments, health care, higher education and to fight the opioid crisis.

The Senate also tabled a second Democratic amendment that would have repealed the tax break used the revenue to balance the budget and to increase a variety of tax credits for the elderly, parents and others.

RELATED: Democratic leader says state tax cuts lead to higher local taxesSome Republicans also are reconsidering the tax. State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, said it is possible the tax repeal could be revived in the conference committee. There is talk of changing the tax break threshold to $100,000, down from $250,000.

She said the legislature ought to look to see if the tax break is being abused or being used more than intended or expected.

House Majority Floor Leader Bill Seitz, R-Cincinnati, said too many businesses are getting the tax break but not creating jobs or investing in equipment. And he said the state’s proposed budget is being balanced using “substantial, painful cuts” of about 3 percent for “just about everybody.” He’s said scaling back the tax break would free up revenue to keep from cutting so deeply.

Kasich and Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, both oppose repealing the tax.

RELATED: WINE SALE: Ohio lawmakers may allow 10% off a HALF case

Warren County townships prohibiting medical marijuana

Published: Thursday, June 22, 2017 @ 6:33 AM

            The legalization of medical marijuana in Ohio has prompted a range of responses by local governments in Warren County.

Marijuana cultivation for medical use has been prohibited in several Warren County townships, including two where permits were being sought for this use.

RELATED: Warren County reviewing medical marijuana cultivation permit

Since late May, trustees in Harlan, Union and Turtlecreek townships voted to prohibit cultivation, as well as the processing and dispensing of medical marijuana, as Ohio moves forward with legalization through the Ohio Medical Marijuana Control Program.

“We didn’t see any taxable economic advantage to the township,” Turtlecreek Twp. Trustee Dan Jones said Wednesday. “At this point, we didn’t seen any need to have it in our township.”

The prohibitions came after the county zoning supervisor accepted an application in May for cultivation on land in Union Twp., between Lebanon and Mason.

RELATED: Warren County expects to OK medical marijuana cultivation

A second applicant was looking at land in Harlan Twp. in the southwest corner of the county, according to Mike Yetter, zoning supervisor in Warren County.

Both applications were rejected.

“They just got caught up in technicalities,” Yetter said this week.

Harlan, Turtlecreek and Union townships are under the jurisdiction of county zoning rules.

Still the prohibiting resolutions are expected to block successful applications within their limits, although the county cannot prohibit the cultivation or processing, as they are exempted agricultural uses, said Assistant County Prosecutor Bruce McGary.

Distribution of medical marijuana would be handled as a commercial use, subject to county regulations, according to McGary.

MORE: Yellow Springs sells land for medical marijuana business

Yetter said he would still accept zoning applications. This approval is part of what is needed by state applicants.

The prohibition resolutions, passed under provisions of state law that created the state program, signaled a change in perspective.

“We don’t have any choice. The law says we can’t do anything it,” Harlan Twp. Administrator Andy Mitten said last month.

Yet on June 7, the Harlan Twp. trustees unanimously approved a resolution stating that the state medical marijuana law “delegated authority to townships to regulate medical marijuana facilities.”

RELATED: Ohio to license medical marijuana growers

On Friday, the state is expected to provide data on applicants for as many as 12 small-scale cultivation licenses. By September 2018, the state is to award up to 24 licenses for small- and large-scale cultivation sites.

RELATED: Follow Lawrence Budd on Twitter

Elsewhere in Warren County, local governments are taking different stances.

Earlier this month, Springboro extended its moratorium and is moving toward prohibition. Franklin also has declared a moratorium.

Outside city limits, Clearcreek Twp. trustees are moving toward prohibition as well.

But on Tuesday in Carlisle, the local council rescinded a portion of its moratorium to allow a cultivation facility in the village business park.

RELATED: Carlisle sells land to for medical marijuana cultivation

“We adopted the moratorium so we could be in control of the process,” Councilman Brad McIntosh said. “I don’t rush into anything. I’ve done my research and, if this was bad, I wouldn’t support it.”