Ohio Chamber President: Ohio’s municipal tax burden needs to be redesigned

COLUMBUS — Ohio has a lot going for it, but if the state is to be the best place in the nation to do business, it has to work, said Steve Stivers, president of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.

Among the tasks Stivers proposed to board members of the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce Thursday included: Simplifying Ohio’s municipal tax burden, increasing administrative and compliance costs for businesses.

Stivers presented a new state chamber report entitled “The Blueprint for Ohio’s Economic Future,” which provides an analysis of economic rankings that compares Ohio to other states across the country.

This ranking, conducted with Accenture, found Ohio ranked 37th among the 50 states for tax burden and a dismal 47th for ease of doing business.

More than three million Ohio residents pay a 2% local tax in addition to state and federal taxes, Stivers said. In fact, he said Ohio has more tax jurisdictions than any other state except Pennsylvania.

“Working from home is a real threat to many of our cities, including Dayton, and we want to make sure our cities have the revenue they need to provide the critical services, the security services,” Stivers said.

Local tax reform could take various forms, he said.

“You could replace that with government revenue,” he said in an interview after his presentation at the NCR Country Club. “Most states finance their cities from state revenues. Ohio, particularly under (former) Governor John Kasich, really cut the state fund for local governments. This is an opportunity, or we could look at other options.”

Stivers said Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine read the chamber’s report and admitted he found it “negative.” But Stivers went out of his way to note that he believes Ohio has a lot to offer — overall affordability compared to much of the country, a high quality of life, plentiful water (a factor that attracted Intel and its prospective semiconductor manufacturing plants), and more.

“If we can focus on the workforce, if we can focus on our taxation, if we can recruit people for the state … just those three things are a game changer,” Stivers said. “They can put us in the top 10 quickly.”

The report examined several issues; The summary alone is 13 pages long. Access to childcare and affordability may contribute to an ongoing problem of worker participation. According to the state chamber, Ohio is 62,000 fewer employees than before the pandemic. Additionally, Ohio’s population growth is slow compared to the fastest growing states.

It could take a decade to address all the issues the chamber raises, he acknowledged. “Some of these things can take a lot longer.”