A proposal pending before the Senate Ways and Means Committee could lead to an amendment of the Ohio Constitution that would require a supermajority of state lawmakers to approve income tax increases.
Senate Joint Resolution 3, sponsored by state Sen. Dave Burke, R-Marysville, would require two-thirds of state House members and two-thirds of state Senate members to sign off on any income tax hike.
According to Burke, income taxes have dropped by nearly 30 percent since 2006, and since 1984, when income tax rates peaked, taxes have been reduced by almost 50 percent. Last year, state lawmakers enacted a four percent reduction in personal income tax rates as part of House Bill 166, the 2020-21 fiscal year budget.
“While much public good can occur through the proper use of tax revenue, the taxing of individual productivity is counterproductive to general prosperity and freedom,” Burke said in written testimony to the committee. “As such, the taxing of personal income, and most especially, the increasing of such a tax, should have a higher bar than a simple majority vote.”
Voters could decide the amendment during the Nov. 3 election. Sending it to voters first requires three-fifths of both the state House and the state Senate to sign off on the resolution.
If voters approve the change, it would take effect immediately. However, the proposal has seen some opposition.
“In every recession during the past 40 years, under both Democratic and Republican governors, Ohio has raised taxes at least temporarily to make up for lost revenue,” Zach Schiller, research director of Policy Matters Ohio, said in written testimony to the committee.
“When the next recession comes, under this proposal, the income tax will be effectively off limits – and so only more regressive taxes and fee increases, falling harder on low- and middle-income Ohioans – will be possible,” Schiller added. “That will further tilt our tax system against the less affluent.”
Under current state law, only emergency bills and congressional redistricting bills require supermajority votes, according to a Legislative Service Commission (LSC) review of the proposal.
“Taxation and spending should be like a thermostat – adjusting to changing conditions by moving up and down accordingly,” John T. McNay, president of the Ohio Conference of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), said in written testimony to the committee.
“The proposed supermajority approach in SJR 3 suggests the furnace cannot come back on unless the room temperature drops below zero – at which point the plants have died and the pipes have burst,” McNay added. “We ask this committee to reject this resolution, which may seem politically expedient now, but could spell disaster later.”