COLUMBUS – Village of Jefferson Clerk/Treasurer Patricia Fisher recently took a trip to Columbus to voice her opposition to the proposed formation of a centralized municipal income-tax collection by the state
Last week, State Rep. John Patterson (D-Jefferson) welcomed Fisher to the Statehouse to testify before the Ohio House Finance Committee on House Bill 49, the state’s biennial budget legislation.
“Patricia is a tireless public servant who cares greatly for the Village of Jefferson,” said Patterson. “By traveling to Columbus to voice her opposition to provisions of the state budget, she demonstrated once again her integrity and dedication to bettering our community.”
Fisher was encouraged by Jefferson Village Council to make the trip. Last month, Jefferson Council joined many other municipalities in passing a resolution strongly opposing Gov. John Kasich’s
proposed 2017-2018 budget, including the centralized collection of net-profit tax returns and other provisions related to the municipal income tax, which, according to Jefferson officials, will cause a substantial loss of revenue needed to support the health, safety, welfare and economic development efforts of Ohio municipalities.
Under Kasich’s proposal, instead of filing tax returns with individual cities, businesses instead would file them through the online Ohio Business Gateway. The Ohio Department of Taxation would then process the returns before distributing the money to each municipality, charging a 1-percent fee.
Fisher said she strongly opposes this change.
“The money is a big issue, but the State of Ohio is taking control of our income-tax money with the businesses. They’re taking away our home rule,” Fisher said.
In Columbus, she testified that, “Article XVIII of the Ohio Constitution provides municipalities like Jefferson certain ‘home rule’ powers that include the power of local self-government, the exercise of certain police powers, and the ownership and operation of public utilities. Included in the power of local self-government is the right to determine how the Village of Jefferson should administer its municipal income tax code and the choice to contract for services in the collection of income tax. House Bill 49’s centralizing of the collection of business net profit income tax violates these Home Rule principles by removing Jefferson’s choice in the matter.”
Fisher is against the state taking away the “home rule,” but she also had concerns about whether that 1-percent fee is going to increase every year – and how the state is going to give the municipalities back their money, 99 percent of it, only quarterly.
“It’s going to financially hurt a lot of municipalities and villages,” Fisher said. “They’re making a decision on doing something without thinking it all the way through.”
She also had concerns about the Ohio Business Gateway being in charge. In 2012, the Ohio Business Gateway gave Jefferson the wrong money – it was mistaken for another Jefferson in the State of Ohio. Further, it took the Ohio Business Gateway until this year, five years later, to ask for a refund, even though the statute of limitations is up, Fisher said.
While in Columbus, Fisher focused her testimony on provisions of House Bill 49.
“Like Abraham Lincoln, I firmly believe in a government of the people, by the people, and for the people and there is no government closer to the people than that of municipal government,” said Fisher in her testimony. “The Village of Jefferson is governed by its own residents who care for and believe in their community and wish to take responsibility for
charting its course. These residents, including myself, decided many years ago to self-administer the municipal income tax code and not contract those services to a third-party agency because of the great deal of talent we have and the attention we provide to our taxpayers. The state, through House Bill 49, threatens that conscious decision and violates our home rule powers as a result.”
Fisher also included along with her testimony the Village of Jefferson’s resolution, adopted on March 20, which outlines the village’s opposition to HB 49’s municipal income-tax changes.
“House Bill 49 is a big business deal that aggrandizes state power, lines state pockets and hurts local governments, all while doing an inferior job compared to municipal tax administrators,” said Fisher.
Fisher’s testimony occurred during the final hearing of the House Finance Committee before the legislative spring recess. During the two-week recess, lawmakers in the House will determine what changes are made to Gov. Kasich’s budget proposal.
Now back home in Jefferson, Fisher said she believes her testimony went well.
“I did get the attention of a couple of representatives. They came and talked to me afterward,” she said.
Jefferson Solicitor Michael Hamper III also attended the House Finance Committee visit along with Fisher.
Jefferson Clerk/Treasurer Patty Fisher is pictured at a committee witness stand.