Not to dwell too much on the past, 2011 was a difficult year to say the least.
Hundreds of thousands of Ohioans sought jobs as the unemployment rate stagnated at 9 percent.
Though the past year has been a trying time for many, Ohioans are nothing if not resilient. Despite the hurdles, the 129th General Assembly enacted historic changes.
From balancing an $8 billion budget to reducing taxes for Ohioans, we are making strides in the right direction.
One of the great successes of the year was balancing the state operating budget. The year began with an $8 billion deficit due in large part to a decline in revenue because of job loss. However, the House worked hard to cut costs and retain vital services, while continuing to improve the job market. The House made cuts to state agencies and other adjustments that resulted in $45 million per year to local governments. Furthermore, the passage of House Bill 2 granted the Auditor of State explicit authority to conduct performance audits on state agencies. Stricter accountability measures for state agencies are vital to Ohio’s economic success. We must ensure that no valuable resources are being wasted.
An important measure included in the budget is the program InvestOhio. InvestOhio aims to encourage investment by connecting small businesses with the money needed to grow and create jobs. The goal is to generate at least $1 billion in new private investment by 2013 and lead to 30,000 new jobs. The program allows investors to collect an income tax credit for investment of up to $10 million in eligible businesses.
This program should see investments increase, which will increase the number of jobs available and strengthen Ohio’s economy.
From the beginning of the year, job creation emerged as priority Number One. This is evidenced by House Bill 1, which established JobsOhio, a non-profit entity committed to creating an economic climate suited for job growth. Part of this effort means ensuring that JobsOhio is responsive to businesses and for business leaders to have direct access to provide feedback without the drawbacks of dealing with bureaucracy.
Other bills from the past year that were important for job creation include House Bills 58 and 18. H.B. 58 created a tax credit to encourage businesses to stay in Ohio. This bill was instrumental in keeping American Greetings in Northeast Ohio after the company was considering moving to Illinois. H.B. 18 incentivizes businesses that are growing and needing to relocate to stay in Ohio or, if out of state, come to Ohio and consider locating in a vacant building. There are many vacant buildings throughout Ohio due to a struggling economy and a mass exodus of small and large corporations. By occupying buildings that businesses have left, companies will be entering economies full of citizens that need jobs and are ready to work. Additionally, the influx of new businesses will help to revitalize communities that are currently struggling.
As you can see the efforts toward job creation and retention are vast and varied. 2011 was a year of laying the groundwork for the future of Ohio’s economy. In 2012 my colleagues and I will work just as hard to continue to see growth and improvement in the areas of job creation and economic development. Great things were accomplished in 2011, but a new year brings with it the continued opportunity to work on your behalf to improve the current state of affairs. I am optimistic that with the accomplishments of the past year, Ohio is working its way back to the top.
Joe Uecker (R-Miami Township) is the state representative serving the 66th District.