Your Columbus Chamber has been fighting for small businesses for 135 years. A primary pillar of our work is Government Relations, which includes local, state, and federal advocacy. We are your voice at the Statehouse, working hard to protect small business interests during the state biennial budget process.
The State Biennial Budget appropriates nearly $70 billion annually for state agencies and programs. It is the largest piece of legislation that moves through the state legislature every two-year General Assembly and will set the tone and priorities for the DeWine Administration for years to come. In addition to appropriating state funds, the budget tackles major policy issues which will inevitably touch the lives of every Ohioan, either professionally or personally, in some way.
The budget was introduced in March by Governor Mike DeWine with his initial recommendations. The House then passed their own version of the budget where they kept many of Gov. DeWine’s initial provisions and added their own. Now the House version of the budget sits in the Senate where they are taking their time to draft their own version. Once the Senate passes their own version, the bill will then go into a conference committee comprised of select members of both the House and Senate. The House, Senate, and Governor will hammer out differences in their respective versions of the budget to create an identical version that both chambers will vote on and send to the Governor for his signature. This must all happen before the constitutional deadline of June 30.
The Columbus Chamber has been focused on business-friendly provisions in three key areas within the budget —tax, workforce, and economic development—all of which would impact the Columbus region business community.
Our top priority this budget season has been to protect the Business Income Deduction. This tax deduction, which began in 2016, permits small business owners to take an income tax deduction against his or her Ohio income tax liability. The House version of the budget added damaging provisions that that would decrease the Small Business Tax Deduction to $100,000 from $250,000 and would remove the special flat 3% tax rate for business income above that threshold. This tax deduction it vital to many Chamber members and small businesses throughout the state who take advantage of the deduction to reinvest in and grow their business.
Your Chamber President and CEO, Don DePerro, testified on the importance of this deduction to the Ohio Senate Finance Committee. You can read his full testimony here, and watch it here (time: 2:58:12.) We will continue to lobby the Senate and Legislature to preserve this deduction and educate them on the value this brings to the small business community.
Ensuring that the Columbus region remains a competitive place to do business is vital for the future success of our regional. Having greater access to other business centers via direct flights will help to connect our region to the world and global economy which will help us to remain competitive and continue to grow. A priority of our Chamber is to create an Air Service Development Fund with the purpose of attracting new domestic and international flights to the region with the help of state financial support to bring them here. This would be a major economic development tool for the region, attracting new business, opening new markets for existing business, as well as helping to attract and retain young workers that want access to easy travel.
Another economic development tool the Chamber has been a strong advocate for is a state version of the federal Opportunity Zone program. The Opportunity Zone Program was created in 2017 as part of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in an effort to spur economic development in low-income areas and encourage long-term investments. The state has proposed its own version that would be able to be used in conjunction with the federal program. In an effort to ensure that the state version is business-friendly and easily accessible, the Chamber, in consultation with our Opportunity Zone Working Group, submitted written testimony to Columbus region legislators advocating for changes to specific provisions that would better align the state program with the current federal program and make it reasonably attainable for businesses of all sizes to utilize.
Finally, a core pillar of our work at the Chamber focuses on workforce development. There are multiple provision within this budget that would help to foster a more vibrant and well-rounded workforce in our region and state. The Chamber submitted testimony this week advocating for a few specific provisions which include: an income tax credit for employers of ex-felons; reimbursement funding for schools whose students are enrolled in career tech courses; funding for schools to establish credentialing programs where they do not currently exist; a STEM scholarship retention program to encourage students pursuing STEM education and careers; a health care workforce preparation task force; and funding for professional development for teachers in STEM fields that would be administered by our friends at the PAST Foundation.
The Chamber will continue to fight for small business interest in the budget until its final passage deadline of June 30, 2019. To learn more about the final provisions in the budget and provisions that will impact the business community, attend our upcoming Government Spotlight, State Biennial Budget: Understanding the Impact on Business, on July 17.