Support for the statewide broadcast of the state of Ohio comes from Medical mutual providing more than 1.4 million Ohioans peace of mind with a selection of health insurance plans online at med mutual dot com slash Ohio by the law offices of Porter Wright, Morris and Arthur LLP.
Now with eight locations across the country.
Porter Wright is a legal partner with a new perspective to the business community.
More at Porter Wright dot.com and from the Ohio Education Association, representing 124,000 members who work to inspire their students to think creatively and experience the joy of learning online at OHEA.org The trial in the largest corruption scandal in Ohio history reaches a climax on its way to a close.
While House Republicans fight over leadership, House Democrats appear to be united.
I'll talk to their leader about how they plan to move their agenda as a super minority, and the House's top priority would flatten the state income tax and change property tax laws and cost schools and local governments more than $1,000,000,000.
Highlights from its first hearing this week in the state of Ohio.
Welcome to the state of ohio.
I'm Karen Kasler.
After seven weeks, the federal racketeering trial of republican former Ohio House speaker Larry Householder and ex Ohio Republican Party chair Matt Burgess is nearing an end.
Testimony is now over, with householders defense resting after he spent two days on the stand and Borgias this time resting without calling a single witness.
Next week, closing arguments in the case in which the two are alleged to have played roles in a $61 million bribery scheme to pass a nuclear power plant bailout law for FirstEnergy.
I talked this week with Jesse Ballard, state government and politics reporter for the USA Today Network, Ohio Bureau.
So what was the case that Larry Householder made for himself when he was on the stand?
So Larry Householder took the stand this week and he said that, number one, that he wasn't at any of these steakhouse dinners that the federal prosecutors are saying was where the plan was hatched to exchange FirstEnergy donations in exchange for this piece of legislation.
House Bill six, which had nuclear plant bailouts that would help a subsidy for energy solutions.
And so he said, you know, I wasn't there.
And then the rest of his defense was essentially touting the benefits of House Bill six, why someone might want to vote for this legislation other than because one had received a lot of political contributions.
What were some of the points that Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Glatfelter made in her cross-examination, which was pretty pointed?
So she really went point by point and tried to dismantle some of what Larry Householder said on his direct examination.
For example, he said that he was returning to the Ohio House to tackle divisiveness between the parties and even within the Republican Party.
Well, then, Assistant U.S. Attorney glad Potter cued up a couple of clips of Larry Householder speaking with former lobbyist Neil Clark, where he was disparaging members of the Republican caucus.
He also said that he would go after donors of Speaker Ryan Smith, who was his opponent in the race for speakership in 2019.
And she also showed some pictures that indicated that he was aware he had claimed he wasn't.
So Larry Householder said that he did not go to the Charlie Palmer Steakhouse in Washington, D.C. during the inauguration for President Donald Trump.
And they had a photo that they pulled up that looked like Larry Householders.
And he also householder son First Energy's then top lobbyist Mike Dowling in a limo and they kind of geocoding information from that photo indicated it was right next to the Charlie Palmer Steakhouse.
So kind of throwing some doubt that perhaps he was there that night.
And he even said that he could be certain that two people in that photo were not there that night, which is interesting because the metadata puts that picture at a specific date.
Let me ask you about Matt Burgess, who's also on trial here.
Is there anything to make of the fact that he and his team rested their case without calling a single witness?
So this week started with Tyler Berman says that he was bribed by Matt Burgess.
Berman received a $15,000 check from Burgess.
Berman says that's in exchange for insider information about the House Bill six referendum that was trying to block that bailout bill.
Burgess says that the money was to help a friend who was in some financial trouble and for other projects that he was doing.
And so it's really going to be who the jury believes Burgess and his attorneys decided not to take the stand, felt like the government had not prove their case.
And as you mentioned, the jury will get the case after closing arguments on Tuesday.
This case is so complicated, hundreds of exhibits and phone calls and pictures and documents and that sort of thing.
Do you expect that they'll be deliberating for a long time?
Gosh, for my time covering state court, it's so hard to anticipate how juries are going to react.
Just looking at these jurors, they're certainly paying attention.
There have been some, you know, frustrations with the delays.
This trial has been delayed a couple of times because of illness.
And so I think you're they both want to do their job for democracy and also maybe want to be going home and getting done with this trial.
So we'll see which forces are at play there.
After Householder finished on the stand on Thursday, I asked him how he felt it went.
Mr. Householder, how do you think it went?
Well, for the last two weeks, I've talked to the Republicans who were leading the Ohio House first speaker, Jason Stevens, and then Representative Derek Marin, who claims leadership of the Ohio House Republican Caucus.
But I also sat down with another leader who could become a key player in what happens in the House in the coming weeks.
Democratic Representative Allison Rousseau heads up the minority caucus.
So you said of Speaker Steven's priority list, there's a lot we agree on and some things we are miles away on.
So I want to ask you both what are some of the things that you agree on with Speaker Stevens agenda?
And also, what are your thoughts on Representative Maron's agenda?
Well, the speaker laid out 12 party bills, six of those are bipartisan bill.
So we have Democratic support on six of those things that, you know, economic development opportunities, affordable housing, modernizing our adoption system, addressing our infant mortality crisis, fully funding public education.
So there are a number of issues that we are supportive of.
But of course, there are also six in that list that we are not supportive of.
And, you know, from the beginning, we've always I've always said, you know, this is not going to be perfect.
We're not going to agree on everything.
And we will certainly be pushing back, especially on some of these more extreme pieces of legislation and legislation that we think is ultimately going to be harmful to the people of Ohio.
Any thoughts on what Representative Maren has unveiled?
Frankly, I haven't seen the full priority list.
My understanding is there's some overlap with the speaker's list.
I will say I represent Marion has talked about two things that he cares about that I think we could find Democratic support.
For example, ethics reform is a space that Democrats have introduced legislation.
In fact, I have sponsored legislation in the past.
And, you know, increasing the local government find the percentage.
That is something that we have always supported.
Unfortunately, Representative Marion has also made statements that he doesn't want Democrats to have any wins that which I think is a a poor perspective on this.
You know, we come into these jobs not for Republican wins or Democratic wins.
We come into this job for Ohio, wins for Ohio, wins for our local schools, wins for our communities, wins for our working families.
Both Stevens and Marion have tax proposals as priorities bills.
Both are flat taxes, at least for a while.
Stevens is a two and three quarter percent flat tax long.
Some property tax changes, including eliminating the 10% state's rollback.
Marin's is a two and a half percent flat tax and then eventually the income tax will be completely eliminated.
But yet both say that they will cost probably more than $1,000,000,000 to the state, and yet they want to still fully fund the fair school funding plan.
They want to do universal vouchers.
They want to do economic development.
What are your thoughts on these?
Well, my thoughts are that say sounds like you're not going to be able to balance the books with everything that's on that list.
Listen, as Democrats, we support tax cuts as long as they are targeted towards our middle class families and they're putting money back into the pockets of middle class families.
We don't want to create more tax cuts for the super wealthy, nor do we want to create tax cuts that ultimately are simply going to be tax shifts and are going to cost our local governments money, our schools money, our libraries money.
To me, that's not a tax cut.
That's a tax shift.
And at the end of the day, you know, if we can come to some sort of tax policy that is really targeted to the families who need it most and putting money back into their pockets, we can support that.
But we're not going to do it at the expense of, you know, cutting the legs out from under our local governments, because what that means, that is less public safety forces.
That means fewer teachers in our schools, and that means fewer folks who are staffing our libraries and making sure that we've got those valuable assets in our communities.
And potentially brings about the tax shift that you were just talking about, which we heard going back to former Governor John Kasich.
Both Stevens and Marion have bans on trans athletes and girls sports and bans on environmental, societal and governance or ESG investing.
Are you hoping that some of the difficulties between these two caucuses might result in legislation that you've called extremist?
Not moving forward?
Well, listen, you know, as I've said from the beginning, we are going to fight back on any of these cultural war issues that at the end of the day really are doing nothing to improve the lives of everyday Ohioans.
I mean, we'll take the trans athlete sports ban.
You know, we're talking about six students in the entire state of Ohio.
This is nothing more than state sanctioned bullying of children.
These are children who just want to play sports.
So we absolutely are not going to support that.
We want to make sure that Ohio is a place that is welcoming for all.
That is what is going to keep businesses here, keep our people here, attract more people in businesses here.
And these bills do nothing towards that goal.
Are you worried at all about how this struggle might affect legislation that really needs to pass such as the budget?
Well, I think there are lots of things around here that we can get distracted by.
But at the end of the day, to pass something like the budget requires 50 votes to pass any bill.
It requires 50 votes.
And so that is what we will remain focused on, is where are pieces of legislation that we can find agreement and we can get to those 50 votes.
So we've heard from Stevens and Marin on this show about their agenda.
So I want to ask you, what is the agenda for House Democrats?
So the agenda for House Democrats really focuses on people first.
So everything that we support, everything that we are moving forward, is really centered around how can we make sure that we are investing in Ohio's biggest and best asset and that is our people.
So in addition to some of the things that were actually laid out in the speaker's priority list, you know, things like affordable housing, investing in our public education, the smart community investments know we really want to make sure that things like child care, early childhood, that we've got good, strong investments in that space.
The governor's budget looked at, for example, publicly funded child care, increasing the eligibility to 160% of federal poverty level, which is great.
That is movement, but we want it to be even higher.
It really should be up to 200% for us to really start to get into where we need to be to support working families in that space as well.
We want to make sure that this is a place that is good to raise families.
We also need to be looking at things like paid family and medical leave, which we know through the pandemic is so very important, not only for working parents, but also for caring for our aging loved ones, you know, as we want to make sure that we're keeping people into the workforce and they're not having to choose between taking care of a loved one or an infant and a paycheck.
You know, we also want to make sure that we are keeping our community safe.
Lots of things that can be done in that space addressing gun violence in particular.
We have talked a lot about the need for common sense gun reform.
When we look at the growing rate of gun violence in some of our communities, you know, how do we reduce that violence?
It's not only about addressing common sense gun reform, but it's also about, you know, what are some interventions that we can do to make sure that our youth have programs that, number one, are giving them things to do that are productive, but also getting them ready for jobs of the future.
So there are a number of things that we can continue to do to, again, invest in our people, invest in our future.
That really set us up for success.
What is your hope that these agenda items could potentially get passed, especially when you talk about gun violence?
I mean, some of these gun proposals have moved absolutely nowhere.
All of that.
Well, unfortunately, you know, that space in particular has been a huge problem here in the state of Ohio because of, you know, frankly, it's not for lack of the public support of these issues.
In fact, we know that things like expanded background checks, red flag laws, those extreme risk protection orders.
Those have overwhelming support from Ohioans from both sides of the aisle.
The real impediment here has been some of the extremism within our legislature.
And so, you know, in spite of the fact that that is a challenge, we will still keep pushing those issues and still keep talking about those issues and highlighting to the public why these things are important and why it's important for us to be doing something in this space.
One of Marin's priorities, in fact, his top priority is the 60% voter approval to amend the Constitution.
That is House Joint Resolution one, which is not one of Speaker Stevens priorities, but it's still been assigned to a committee and that sort of thing.
So what is your strategy for confronting that, especially since it could make the ballot this fall where it could potentially be on the ballot along with an amendment on reproductive rights?
Well, make no mistake about it, that this particular resolution, which will fundamentally change our ability to directly access democracy in the Constitution is undemocratic.
At the end of the day, it's unpopular, it's unnecessary, it's unfair.
So we will continue talking about that.
We learned in lame duck.
We had hundreds of people who showed up here at the state house.
I imagine that that's going to continue the public outcry against this measure, which would increase the threshold to 60%.
Listen, this is being done primarily because these legislators who have drawn themselves into districts that are uncompetitive understand that the legislation that they've passed around here is extremely unpopular and the citizens still have a direct path to make changes and ensure that we have rights that are protected and they want to take away that right.
That is something that will be deeply unpopular, I believe is deeply unpopular, and we're going to fight it every step of the way.
You mentioned that six of the 12 priority bills from Speaker Stevens do have Democrats as co-sponsors.
But I'm wondering, after you've seen Stephen's agenda, do you feel like some of these bills were proposed, the six that you don't like or propose to bring the Marin coalition on board and really exclude you?
And if that's the case, do you regret voting for him for speaker?
Well, I think that, you know, any time we have priorities laid out in the past, you know, there's recognition that some of those things are probably going to pass and some might not.
So just because things are proposed doesn't mean they're actually going to make it across the finish line.
And by the way, they also have to make it across the finish line in the Senate.
And the governor has to sign them.
So there's still a long way to go with each of these pieces of legislation.
I think right now, frankly, what we're more supportive and focused on is getting through the budget.
We have the transportation budget that's coming up.
We have the operating budget.
To me, the most important policy that we do in the General Assembly is the state's operating budget.
That's really where we show where our priorities are and where we want to invest our money.
So that's what we stay focused on.
Again, you know, this is not a perfect alliance.
We know exactly what we're getting here.
But, you know, regardless of who we're working with, if it's the speaker or some other Republican Democrats will do what we've always done.
And that is we try to find areas of common ground, because at the end of the day, the people sent us here to get work done for them, and that's what we're going to do.
As the minority leader, you do have to work with the speaker.
It's it's part of the job.
And again, the six bills that have Democratic co-sponsor offers, does that imply that you've got a good working relationship with Speaker Stevens?
So, so far, you know, Speaker Stevens and I have had a good working relationship.
You know, we're both professionals and the shop we've been we've known each other now for a couple of general assemblies that we've served together.
But listen, it is you know, it's all about staying focused on what we're here to do, and that is to work for the people.
To me personally, this is not about, again, Democratic wins, Partizan wins.
This is about getting the work done.
Republican Speaker Jason Stevens top priority is a bill that would create a flat state income tax and make major property tax changes while potentially costing schools and local governments more than $1,000,000,000.
This week, lawmakers got their first look at it.
Freshman Republican Representative Adam MATTHEWS is a sponsor.
He told the House Ways and Means Committee the legislation has four goals to lower state income taxes to a two and three quarter percent flat tax to remove the state's 10% property tax rollback that passed with the creation of the state income tax in 1983 to drop the percentage that determines homeowners property taxes on the appraised value of their homes from 35% to 31 and a half percent.
And also to increase the homestead exemption for seniors and replace the two and a half percent rollback for Ohioans who live in the homes they own with a $125 flat rate and quote, to ensure our local communities receive the quality services they expect.
They have budgeted based on the state.
Shielding property owners from the true cost of their property taxes for over 40 years.
And it would be unfair not to help these local taxing entities as we transition to a simpler and more accountable model.
Since 2020, more than 20 other states have cut their income tax rates.
Ohio now is in a position to lead with a flat tax lower than our neighbors, along with needed reform that will benefit all Ohioans.
This will promote economic growth, simplify the tax code and keep more money where it belongs in the pockets of hardworking Ohioans and the communities in which they live.
There's no financial analysis of the bill yet from a Legislative Service commission.
The researchers who study bills for state lawmakers.
But a report from a left leaning think tank Policy Matters.
Ohio shows families making $50,000 a year will get a tax cut of $3 or less.
Those making a half a million dollars per year could see a tax cut of more than $5,000.
The richest 1% in Ohio would get a tax break of more than $11,000, while Republicans on the committee were pleased with the tax changes.
Democrats raised concerns about the $1.2 billion that normally would go to local governments and schools, which is paying for this state income tax cut.
If we lose 1.2 billion local governments were defunding our police and firefighters.
You know, it's hard right now to attract the best and the brightest to those careers to begin with, with less revenue to our cities.
That concerns me.
We're defunding our children because of the drop in revenues to our schools.
We're defunding families who, for instance, last Friday, Brian Zimmerman from the Cleveland Metroparks called me and said this could lead to a decrease in 10 to $12 billion in their revenue, which means no more free Fridays at the zoo for families.
And as well as other cuts to programs that they provide.
It's going to mean cuts to senior citizens who use our senior center in Parma, Parma Heights and Cleveland, as well as our libraries.
So so how how do we how do we answer that to those populations that are going to see a cut in services?
To the chair.
Those are great questions.
I came up from local government myself.
I was on city council and vice mayor and before signing on for this legislation, I reached out to my city manager to see how that how that would affect my city as well as reaching out to our school boards.
Some superintendents in my district and outside my district.
First as Ranking member Troy highlighted there will be some effect of 920 as we go through this.
So it may the amount of cut is still in the calculation and we are working towards that through this process.
I would hope that most of our cities would not use the first 10% of cuts on police and fire.
I think there's a responsibility there.
But on the rest it is important.
Section six of this legislation, as drafted, has the intent to and as as one of the four goals that we're trying to achieve using some of our excess funds that we currently have to help transition from the current enmeshed property tax and income tax system into a more simple and accountable system.
US over the next one to ish general assemblies so that there is no instant cut from our local taxing entities.
You bring up the local government fund.
This would be different and different than that in that the local government fund does not touch schools and so we would be looking at a way to any any entity that is affected by this property tax shift and and simplification.
We would be intending to help transition that through.
Ranking Minority Member Representative Daniel Troy also pointed out that efforts to make up what local governments and schools have lost to tax changes haven't lasted long over the years as those payments are left to future legislators and governors.
For instance, lawmakers included $78 million to school districts in the budget in 2015 to make up for the phase out of the tangible personal property tax, or TPP that started in 2005 under Republican former Governor Bob Taft.
His fellow Republican governor, John Kasich, vetoed that.
Representative Derek Marin's priority list includes a bill to flatten the state income tax to two and a half percent for the first two years and then seeks to eliminate it.
What she said on this show last week could cost about $1.4 billion.
That bill has not been introduced or given a number, but Marin said he's hoping it might be part of the House's version of the two year operating budget.
Now in the Finance Committee, and that is it for this week for my colleagues at the Statehouse News Bureau of Ohio Public Radio and Television.
Thanks for watching.
Please check out our Web site at state News dot org and follow us and the show on Facebook and Twitter.
And please join us again next time for the state of Ohio.
Support for the statewide broadcast of the state of Ohio comes from medical mutual, providing more than 1.4 million Ohioans peace of mind with a selection of health insurance plans online at med mutual dot com slash Ohio by the law offices of portal Wright Morris and Arthur LLP now with eight locations across the country.
Porter right is a legal partner with a new perspective to the business community more at Porter right dot.com and from the Ohio Education Association representing 124,000 members who work to inspire their students to think creatively and experience the joy of learning online at OHEA.org