Thursday, July 01, 2010

GUEST COLUMN: "Hospital Tax is a Job Killer" By St. Rep. Mecklenborg

Ohio’s hospitals play a vital role in the health of not only our citizens, but also our economy and job market. Hospitals consistently rank as one of the top employers in Ohio. In 2009, seven of Ohio’s top 25 employers were in the health sector, with these companies alone employing more than 150,000 Ohioans.
In a time of economic downturn and uncertainty, health care had been one of the few growing sectors in the state. Our local hospitals provide much-needed jobs and income to many of our neighbors, and we cannot afford to hinder their success. With nearly 11 percent of Ohioans currently unemployed, I am concerned that the new hospital tax imposed by Governor Strickland and the House Democrats will greatly deteriorate the jobs in our health care sector and diminish the vital services hospitals provide to our communities.
This hospital franchise fee was included in House Bill 1 and levies a $150 million tax increase on Ohio’s hospitals. As a result, we are already suffering the consequences as hospitals are being forced by financial necessity to cut jobs, reduce their services and delay expansion projects.
The shortsighted and misguided budget championed by Ohio’s Democrats to increase state spending and balance their unsustainable budget has put one of the most important sectors of Ohio’s economy in jeopardy. Why would anyone want to diminish a beacon of economic success in such a financially trying time? I would have to refer you to the House Democrats for a half-cooked answer to this question.
The House Republican Caucus has continued to offer viable solutions to this fiscal mess created by the governor and his friends in the House majority. Our cost-saving proposals to reduce government waste and inefficiency, had they been enacted, would have negated the temptation to raise taxes on our state’s largest employment sector. But because none of these government efficiency bills have received a vote in committee or on the House floor, our caucus introduced a measure to directly address this damaging hospital tax in order to save health care jobs.
According to the budget’s provisions, hospitals are taxed for the free services they provide, like Medicare, Medicaid and other uncompensated care services. Representatives Terry Boose (R- Norwalk) and Troy Balderson (R- Zanesville) introduced House Bill 497 to reduce the current hospital franchise fee, as well as subtract the cost of uncompensated care from the tax base. If enacted, this legislation will alleviate some of the pressure that Ohio’s hospitals are feeling as a result of this tax, while safeguarding thousands of jobs and vital services, which is why I cosponsored this important bill.
As an Ohioan, I am disheartened to see how detrimental this hospital tax has already been to Ohio’s job market and how damaging it is to the high-quality health care within our state. We have some of the most outstanding health care institutions in the entire nation, but this ill-advised tax damages the health of our families, the well-being of our communities, and the success of our economy. As your state representative, I am dedicated to ensuring that our hospitals retain their economic vigor, as this strength is essential for the success of Ohio’s economy as a whole.