Politics Social Justice State sales tax increase hits Ohio consumers By Spencer Cappelli Posted on September 9, 2013 5 min read 0 0 475 The sales tax increase component of House Bill 59, a controversial piece of legislation signed into law by Gov. John Kasich in June, officially came into effect in Ohio on September 1st. The recent tax augmentation has seen all Ohio consumers paying the newly established rate of 5.75 percent, up a quarter percent from the previous rate of 5.5 percent. This 5.75 percent figure does not take into account the individual county sales tax that is also levied onto every purchase; when this is included, the rate totals out at seven percent for residents of Athens County. In other areas across the state, the rates vary significantly. This most notably affects Cuyahoga County, whose 8 percent total sales tax rate is the highest in all of Ohio. The House bill, which officially serves as the State of Ohio’s budget plan for the 2014 and 2015 fiscal years, also includes a 10 percent reduction in state income taxes, which will be gradually phased in over a period of three years. Critics of the freshly implemented budget bill argue that the increased emphasis on sales tax, which is a regressive tax by definition, only shifts the tax burden onto the backs of lower-income Ohioans. “Essentially, middle-class Ohioans and future seniors will be funding a tax break for the wealthiest among us,” said Democratic Senator Lou Gentile, who represents Athens in Ohio’s 30th district. “I believe that all budgets are reflective of priorities,” continued Gentile, “and John Kasich has shown that his priorities are in providing tax breaks for a select few.” Gentile cited specific exclusionary components in his argument against the oft-debated House bill, such as the modification of the Homestead Exemption – a piece of legislation introduced by former Gov. Ted Strickland that qualified all senior citizens for a discount on their property tax payment – that now only includes those seniors who make $30,000 or less in annual income. “This dramatically shifts tax liability onto Ohio’s future seniors,” Gentile said. Seniors currently over the age of 65 will be grandfathered into the previous confines of the Homestead Exemption, and will continue to collect a refund on their property taxes. It has not yet been ascertained just to what extent the consumption patterns of Ohio and Athens County constituents will be altered by the tax restructuring. Athens County is historically one of the poorest counties in the state of Ohio, with 31.5 percent of its people living below the poverty line as of 2011. Other elements of the bill proved to be extremely controversial, including budget restructuring of programs such as Planned Parenthood and other family planning services. The reallocation of these funds into largely conservative backed “Crisis Pregnancy Centers” came under fire by women’s right groups and politically progressive collectives such as the online publication Think Progress.