Westshore Ohio Rep. Nan Baker said the most significant aspect of the recently passed $55.8 billion biennial state budget is that it closed a deficit of several billion dollars without raising taxes.
Baker said she was pleased that the final budget, signed by Gov. John Kasich June 30, restored all basic state aid to public school districts. Kasich’s original proposal cut the aid of some Westshore districts, such as Westlake and Rocky River, by more than 50 percent.
In response, Baker sponsored an amendment limiting the amount any district would lose to 20 percent. That amendment was included in the Ohio House’s version of the budget. In its version, the Senate restored all state aid.
“I think we really raised the awareness that we needed to give the schools that relief,” Baker told West Life.
Public school districts will still lose money as payments that covered the tangible personal property tax and public utility reimbursements were phased out more quickly than originally planned. Baker said that loss will still be significant.
“Although in these difficult economic times, it was not possible to replace tangible personal property tax reimbursement, a loss that all school districts in Ohio endured, replacing the state-aid funding was a significant success for our school districts,” Baker said in a statement after the budget was signed.
Baker said the budget, which she said combined governmental reforms with spending reductions, will put Ohio on the path to prosperity.
The estate tax, which is paid by roughly 7 percent of Ohio estates, will be eliminated as of January 2013. The tax is 6 percent on estates more than $338,000 and 7 percent on estates more than $500,000.
Although the estate tax can vary greatly from year to year, many municipalities have come to depend upon it to balance their budgets. Westlake used revenue from the estate tax, in part, to save up money for numerous capital projects over the years.
“We wanted to give the cities a chance to manage their budgets and understand that [the end of the estate tax] is coming; we didn’t just want to end it with the signing of this budget,” she said.
Earlier in the budget debate, the word from Columbus was that any action on eliminating the estate tax would be put off until the next biennial budget debate. Municipalities had already been alarmed by reports of deep cuts to the state’s local government fund, which totaled about $630 million over two years in the final budget.
Baker said she asked for an amendment to delay the end of the estate tax an additional two years to allow municipalities to better prepare. But the amendment was not supported.
Baker said she didn’t believe those who wanted to keep the estate tax were the victims of a fake-out.
The House Ways and Means Committee, on which Baker serves, held hearings on the estate tax, she said.
“We had lots of mayors and business owners and farmers come in (to testify),” Baker said. “It certainly had its day of vetting.”
Baker supported the elimination of the estate tax. She said Ohio is losing residents to other states that don’t have estate taxes. She also said it’s unfair to have to pay taxes at one’s death.
“It’s really an indicator of the big picture of what we need to do in Ohio to create that environment to create jobs,” Baker told West Life. “It’s not a stand-alone piece. It’s one of many things that have been, and will continue to be, proposed in trying to make this a better state so our kids stay, our elderly people stay.”
In a seperate vote from the budget, Baker supported what has been called “the heartbeat bill,” a proposal that would ban abortions after the first detectable fetal heartbeat, which can be as early as six weeks after conception.
The vote is somewhat notable for Baker, who has seldom commented on the so-called social issues, preferring instead to focus on economic issues.
Baker said she has always been pro-life, but as a representative focused largely on creating jobs for Ohioans.
The language of the bill made how she would vote clear, she said.
“If you have a detection of a heartbeat, that’s life,” Baker told West Life. “I don’t know how anyone can dispute that.”
Pro-choice supporters note the bill does not allow any exceptions for rape, incest or the mother’s life being in danger.
Baker voted in favor of two other abortion restrictions passed by the House late last month. One, which already passed the Senate, would ban late-term abortions after 20 weeks if a doctor determines that the fetus is viable. The other prohibits abortion coverage by insurance plans that will be part of the state exchange created under the federal health care law.
Considered a rising star in the Ohio GOP, Baker did break from her Republican colleagues in voting against the bill allowing concealed-carry permit holders to bring guns into bars provided they don’t drink. The bill didn’t make sense to her, she said.
LIBRARY DAYS: Baker has announced the times and dates of her latest round of library visits at which she meets with constituents.
“I am always trying to find ways to reach out to the constituents in my district,” Baker said. “I look forward to the opportunity to have a direct dialogue on the concerns or ideas regarding important issues facing our state government.”
All of Baker’s library days take place on Saturday mornings from 9:30 to noon.
- North Olmsted Library – July 9
- Rocky River Public Library – July 16
- Bay Village Library – Aug. 13
- Westlake Porter Public Library – Aug. 20
- Fairview Park Library – Aug. 27