You remember Ohio, don't you—that blue/red/purple state that had Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton talking down free trade and other hallmarks of what once was called the free enterprise system. Now state legislators are talking about raiding the booty they got from the big settlement against tobacco companies to create jobs, etc. This they do with the endorsement of "conservative" newspapers such as The Cincinnati Enquirer:
A proposal by Gov. Ted Strickland and legislative leaders [would] use $230 million in tobacco foundation funds to help rescue a $1.57 billion jobs program.
The transfer would leave just $40 million in the anti-smoking fund, created out of a settlement with tobacco companies 10 years ago. Foundation leaders say the fund will be exhausted in two years. No one's saying what will happen to the state's successful Quit Line program or other smoking prevention and cessation approaches. Meanwhile, state officials are saying economic recovery efforts can't wait…
A diversion of anti-smoking funds to economic development could result in increased state revenues, which in turn could be used to rebuild the tobacco foundation. Anti-smoking advocates would have to suspend their protests; state officials would have to do more than give their word. They've have to nail down such an earmark tightly….
Since its creation, the tobacco fund has been a ready source of revenue to address or avoid various financial crises. During the Taft administration, legislators used $568 million in tobacco payments to balance the budget. Last year, Strickland decided to take future tobacco payments in a $5 billion lump sum and applied the sum to property tax breaks for senior citizens and to school construction….
Ohio desperately needs a shot of economic adrenalin, and Strickland's plan looks broad enough and brave enough to provide that jolt.
The governor would create "a comprehensive stimulus package to fund development of biomedical, bioproducts and alternative energy industries. It would also fund local infrastructure improvements and expand internship opportunities for Ohio students." More here.
Those internships are vitally important, no doubt, to saving Ohio's struggling economy. As an Ohio resident, I hope this package will work better than, er, I guess that one put together by former Gov. Bob Taft (a third-generation pol who proves the idea of regression below the mean), which seems to have done absolutely nothing.
Since it's Tax Day, and I'm shoveling cash out the door to Columbus, I'll suggest another stimulus idea, one that doesn't rest about spending money gotten through found money in the form of the tobacco settlement or the ability of a state that's leaking population to lure cutting-edge industries back to Youngstown and Toledo: Cut your tax burden.
Ohio ranks fifth in the nation for state and local tax burdens. I'll be the first libertarian to tell you that taxes aren't the be-all and end-all when it comes to deciding where to live or put a business, but I'm absolutely certain that the plan being kicked around now won't do a goddamn thing to help the economy.