Two weeks ago, Ohio Tax Commissioner Richard Levin touted a study by the Federation of Tax Administrators that found Ohio’s tax collections to be among the nation’s lowest. This was silly for a number of reasons. It was basically an admission that the economy had tanked under his boss, Gov. Ted Strickland. It totally ignored Ohio’s unusually high local tax burden. And it used the mistaken logic that tax rates – higher in Ohio than almost every border state – don’t matter. I summed up Levin’s logical fallacies in a blog post and went on my merry way.
Then, in the Sunday edition of the Toledo Blade, Levin continued the Administration’s "watch what we say, not what we do" act in an op-ed extolling the virtues of lower taxes. To be clear, ATR agrees with the title of Levin’s piece: Tax Cuts Improve Ohio Business. Low taxes encourage investment, job creation, and economic growth. They allow people to spend their own money rather than empowering big government. Low taxes attract population and capital from high tax states.
Unfortunately, Ohio state government has totally ignored this headline in recent history. The most jaw-dropping line in Levin’s piece comes in the second paragraph:
In Columbus, cutting taxes has been a sustained focus of state government. Under Gov. Ted Strickland, Ohio has nearly completed a groundbreaking five-year package of tax reductions and reforms launched by the General Assembly and former governor Bob Taft in 2005.
Yes, folks, that just happened. The Ohio Tax Commissioner just gave credit to Ted Strickland for an income tax cut that was not only signed by his predecessor, but that he actually reversed. In 2009, Strickland "delayed" the final year of the income tax phase-in, an $844 million tax increase on all working Ohioans. Ohio has "nearly completed" the tax cut directly in spite of Gov. Strickland. It was scheduled to be completed in 2009. It now may never happen, because "temporary" generally means "permanent" when talking about tax increases.
Levin goes on to tout "a tax structure right now that beats anybody." Not according to the Buckeye Institute, ALEC, the Tax Foundation, or anyone currently looking for a job. Certainly not according to the nearly 355,000 people who left the state in the past decade in search of greener pastures.
First, we had a Strickland Administration that touted the state’s abysmal economic performance under its watch. Now they have moved on to touting the efficacy of economic policies they have actively worked to oppose. These are confusing times in Ohio politics.