This spring was a very busy one in the Ohio Statehouse as we passed a number of bills to make Ohio a better place to live, work and raise our families. How do we achieve this? I believe one of the most important ways is by getting Ohio back to work. That’s why I continue to focus the Senate’s priorities on balancing Ohio’s budget, reducing our tax burdens, encouraging job creation and connecting Ohioans with those opportunities and the necessary training to be successful. I greatly appreciate the support of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce as we work together to achieve that goal.
One of the most significant pieces of legislation that we passed last month was a bill to repay Ohio’s lingering unemployment compensation debt, amassed during the Great Recession. The remaining debt owed by employers is estimated to be $225 million, and if not repaid to the federal government in full by November 2016, Ohio businesses were facing the possibility of paying over $600 million in 2017 in unemployment tax penalties or more than $140 extra per employee.
When we heard from the Ohio Chamber and its members that this debt and the attached federal penalties were stifling Ohio’s businesses and keeping them from investing in our people and our communities, we listened. We worked together with Ohio’s business community to find a short-term solution to alleviate this job-crushing burden because we share the same goal of getting Ohioans back to work and creating opportunities for them to be successful. This solution allows the state to repay the remainder of the loan, which then reverts the unemployment taxes on our businesses to normal levels and avoids the new federal penalties. All tallied, this will save Ohio businesses nearly half a billion dollars, that instead of being sent to Washington D.C., can now be used to hire, train and invest in the workforce and our economy here in Ohio.
We will continue to work on a longer-term solution to get the fund back into balance and hope to pass such legislation this fall, but this short-term loan from the state to pay off Ohio’s unemployment compensation debt is a big win for our state, for our businesses and for our citizens. I especially want to thank the Ohio Chamber for helping to identify a solution. The Chamber’s leadership and partnership on this issue was instrumental. Ohio is proof that lower taxes, fewer burdensome regulations, a strong workforce and balanced checkbook make a difference between a state that’s thriving and a state that’s simply surviving. Ohio is thriving, and while we have more work to do, the partnership between the Statehouse and Ohio’s businesses on these important goals is putting us on the right path.
Keith Faber is President of the Ohio Senate. To learn more about his office click here.