At the height of the Great Recession, Ohio’s economy was in critical condition, barely clinging to life after the devastating loss of 350,000 private sector jobs. Under the leadership of our previous governor’s administration, we consistently earned bottom ten national rankings for our business climate. The tired old tax-and-spend strategy couldn’t stop the bleeding, let alone get the patient up and moving again. It was time for a new approach.
Five years ago the legislature and Gov. John Kasich forged a different path. The results are striking. Ohio’s job creators have added 425,000 private sector jobs to the economy. National rankings consistently place Ohio in the top 10 states for a favorable business climate. Cynics will tell you that the economy rebounded naturally and economic decisions made in Columbus played a minor role in the turnaround, but anyone whose run a business in Ohio in the past five years knows better. Here in the Ohio Senate, we’ve enacted an ambitious pro-growth agenda to ensure that Ohio is open for business in every corner of the state.
Our agenda of growth starts with tax and regulatory reform. We recognize that you know how to spend your money far more effectively than does government, so we’ve worked hard to let you keep more of your hard-earned dollars. The two-year operating budget we passed last spring reduced everyone’s income tax rate by more than 6 percent and eliminated income tax on small businesses with incomes up to $250,000. We recognize the enormous impact Ohio’s entrepreneurs have on job creation and overall growth. To support these tax cuts, we’ve cut yards of red tape that choke many small businesses. We focus on common sense compliance, not a “one size fits all” approach. As a result, new agency rules and regulations are down by nearly 50 percent, and Ohio businesses now have an advocate to ensure that new state agency rules don’t impose an unreasonable burden.
Lower taxes and less burdensome regulations promote needed job growth, but we also need to provide a trained and skilled workforce to fill those jobs and offer Ohioans real career opportunities. To bridge the widening gap between needed skills and employee qualifications, we’re working in tandem with higher education institutions and Ohio businesses to help orient education and skills training toward in-demand professions. In order to help students receive career training without crushing debt, we called on our state colleges and universities to reduce student costs by at least five percent. They have gone above and beyond by reducing the cost burden for students by an average of nearly 12 percent. Higher education affordability is a key ingredient in developing a workforce that’s prepared to address the unique challenges of the 21st century.
We keep in mind that fiscal sustainability is the foundation of every measure we pass to promote growth. To position our children and grandchildren for success in the future, we must act in the present to balance our checkbook. Last month, we passed legislation to repay a federal loan so that the federal employment tax rate on businesses wouldn’t double overnight. As a result, Ohio businesses saved half a billion dollars this year, and the state saved more than 25 million dollars in interest payments. These savings can be used to hire, expand and reinvest in our people and our economy.
The steps we’ve taken to revitalize Ohio’s economy have created a business climate that is earning the attention of executives around the country. A recent annual survey of more than 500 CEOs placed Ohio second in the Midwest for a favorable business climate. According to the Ohio State University Fisher College of Business, Ohio CEOs report that they’re producing greater profits and hiring more employees than their peers in other states.
Clearly, something is going very right in the state of Ohio. Students no longer need to look outside their own communities for a job when they graduate. Businesses are expanding, not downsizing. Our economic transformation is gaining national recognition.
Here in the Senate, we’re confident that the formula for economic growth is simple and achievable. Ohio is proof that lower taxes, fewer burdensome regulations, a well-educated workforce and a balanced checkbook make the difference between a state that’s thriving and a state that’s simply surviving. Together we’ve made extraordinary progress in making Ohio the best state in the country to live and work, but we’re only just beginning. Yes, Ohio is doing better, but better is still not good enough. The best is yet to come.