By Senator Rob Portman –
With the help of new pro-growth policies, the economy is growing and more and more businesses across the state are expanding their operations and putting “workers wanted” signs in their windows.
A lot of that optimism is from the tax cuts and better policies in the new tax reform law. It starts with tax cuts for individuals. Because of the new changes to the individual tax code — including doubling the standard deduction, doubling the child tax credit, and lowering tax rates across the board — 90 percent of Americans are seeing the amount of take-home pay in each paycheck go up. A median income Ohio family of four will save about $2,000 a year on their taxes from this new law.
In addition to tax cuts for families, the new tax law also benefits Ohio businesses. We lowered our business tax rate to be more competitive with the rest of the world, created a 20 percent deduction for smaller “pass-through” companies, updated our international tax code to encourage jobs and investments in this country rather than overseas, and implemented pro-growth policies like immediate expensing of equipment.
A recent PNC Bank survey showed small and mid-sized business optimism in Ohio at the highest level in the survey’s history. I’ve seen that optimism firsthand.
Since the first of the year, I’ve visited 16 businesses that have raised wages, delivered bonuses, invested in new equipment, expanded benefits, or a combination of those things as a direct result of tax reform.
I’ve also seen the benefit of this law in our communities. I fought to preserve tax incentives for historic renovation and community redevelopment projects during the tax reform debate. The Historic Tax Credit and New Markets Tax Credit were removed in the House-passed bill, but we included them in the Senate-passed version and in the final law.
These tax credits were instrumental in getting the funding to transform the historic Steam Plant in Toledo into the new ProMedica Headquarters, as well as many other projects across the state.
With these new pro-growth policies in place, businesses are expanding — and we are seeing more economic development in Ohio. With all of this going on, workers are badly needed. We’re making economic progress, but we can and should do more to connect people to jobs.
The Ohio Chamber of Commerce recently surveyed businesses across the state. The results are striking: 70 percent of businesses added employees in the first three months of the year and 75 percent said they plan to hire this quarter.
Businesses across the state tell me that finding qualified workers is now their biggest challenge. That is an opportunity for our Ohio economy and an opportunity for those out of work.
As co-founder and co-chair of the Senate Career and Technical Education (CTE) Caucus, I’m working to help connect hardworking Ohioans to good-paying jobs. CTE programs help bridge the skills gap by providing training for in-demand jobs.
We need to make these job-training programs more accessible, and I introduced CTE Excellence and Equity Act to do just that. That bipartisan bill will help redesign the high school experience by expanding access to high-quality CTE programs that provide college credit, workforce experience, and apprenticeship opportunities.
In addition to being more accessible, the federal government should help make these programs more affordable. Currently, lower-income students are eligible for federal Pell Grants if they attend a traditional four-year college, but they aren’t eligible for those same grants if they choose to enroll in an accredited CTE program.
That doesn’t make sense and should be fixed. The JOBS Act, another bipartisan bill I introduced, will give students in shorter-term CTE programs the same access to Pell Grants as those in longer-term college programs.
There are other policy changes needed to expand the workforce, including combatting the opioid epidemic that is depleting the pool of potential workers at an alarming rate. But ensuring Ohioans have access to affordable career training is a positive step that will make a real difference.
There is momentum in our state with businesses expanding and seeking skilled workers. We need to seize this opportunity, keep our economy moving in this positive direction, and help Ohioans develop the skills to grow in the career of their choice and fulfill their potential in life.
Rob Portman is a United States Senator from the state of Ohio.