Out on the stump, Gov. John Kasich loves talking taxes—specifically about how he thinks people in Ohio pay too much in them.
During his successful run for governor against Democrat Ted Strickland in 2010, Kasich claimed that Ohio was one of the most heavily taxed states in a television ad that got major airplay around Labor Day.
And the Republican governor was talking again about tax burdens at a May 24 event in Dublin, a Columbus suburb, as part of a discussion about his state budget proposal and the need for Ohio to stay competitive with other states.
The state, he said, has given local entities, like schools and libraries and governments, the tools to keep their costs down, and they shouldn’t be going to voters for tax increases to offset cuts from the state.
"If we don’t lower our taxes, we’re not competitive," Kasich told a GOP-friendly crowd inside a local ice cream parlor. "We’re the seventh highest taxed state in America. And that’s not just state, it’s local as well."
Politifact Ohio gave Kasich a Half True rating for when he called Ohio one of the most taxed states last fall. But the governor’s now getting more specific about how he defines "taxed" by placing it in the context of Ohio’s combined local and state tax burdens. And he’s got a ranking — seventh in the country. So we decided to give this issue another study.
Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols pointed to a study from the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation, which crunched state and local tax data and found Ohio to be seventh-highest among the 50 states. This ranking was most recently referenced by the group in a release entitled Fiscal Fact #207, dated Jan. 7, 2010.
But the numbers have been updated since Kasich made his claim last fall and that data is no longer the most current from the Tax Foundation.
A more recent Feb. 23, 2011 report from the group, entitled Special Report #189, ranks Ohio 18th in tax burden among the 50 states and suggests Ohio hasn’t been as high as seventh in tax burden since 2005. So why did a Jan. 2010 report from the group say Ohio was currently seventh?
Tax Foundation spokesman Richard Morrison said the methodology used by the group is "tweaked" from report to report slightly and that updated, more accurate information is applied to back years which changes the rankings for multiple years from one report to the next.
Additionally, there is an ongoing debate in taxation circles over whether the methodology employed by the Tax Foundation to determine a state’s local and state tax burden is correct. That’s because the group adjusts raw census data in certain ways to include considering taxes Ohioans may pay in other states before diving a state’s total tax collections by total personal income.
In contrast, the Federation of Tax Administrators, sticks with the raw census data without making any adjustments. Their numbers had Ohio 16th in percentage of personal income paid to tax collectors in 2008. They haven’t yet crunched any numbers for 2009.
Ron Alt, research economist for the Federation of Tax Administrators, said he thinks Ohio is getting close to the middle of the pack when it comes to tax burden around the country. "My judgment is that it’s close to the median in ranking," he said. "I would say it’s a pretty typical tax burden."
So where does that leave Kasich’s claim?
Kasich said Ohio had the seventh highest state and local tax burden in the country, relying on a study of the conservative-leaning Tax Foundation study. However, that figure was for 2005 and the study has been updated with the most recent set of rankings showing the state to have the 18th highest state and local tax burden.
Another tax ranking, compiled by the more neutral Federation of Tax Administrators, showed Ohio 16th in state and local tax burden in 2008.
No matter which set of rankings you use, Ohio clearly no longer has the seventh-highest tax burden.
Kasich needs to update his talking points, and start giving his fellow Republicans a little credit for the full impact of the income tax cuts they began delivering to Ohioans back in 2005.
On the Truth-O-Meter, we rate Kasich’s claim as False.
Phone Interview with Rob Nichols, spokesman for Gov. John Kasich, May 25, 2011
Phone Interview with Ron Alt, senior manager for economic and tax policy, Federation of Tax Administrators, May 25, 2011
Ohio Capital Blog, Gov. John Kasich’s remarks at Dublin, Ohio, ice cream parlor. His remarks begin at about the 1:07 mark, posted to YouTube May 23, 2011
Tax Foundation, Special Report #189, "Rankings for Ohio state and local tax burden for 1977-2009," Feb. 23, 2011
Federation of Tax Administrators, state rankings of total local and state taxescollected as a percentage of personal income for 2008
Phone Interview with Richard Morrison, spokesman for the Tax Foundation, May 26, 2011
PolitiFact Ohio, "John Kasich says Ohio is one of the most taxed states," Sept. 15, 2010
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