A proposal by Gov. John Kasich to reward investors in Ohio businesses with a tax break is getting good reviews locally.
"For too many years, the amount of investment made in Ohio ... has been less than that in states that are having a more robust economy," said Charlotte Keim, president of the Marietta Area Chamber of Commerce. "This will be an incentive to some of those people who have money to invest."
Announced last week by Kasich, the "Investment Ohio" program would allow Ohioans who invest in a company and hold the investment for two years to pay no tax on the gain. The tax break would apply to investments of up to $10 million in businesses with less than $50 million in assets or less than $10 million in annual sales, said Rob Nichols, spokesman for the governor.
"The focus is small business," he said.
The program would also include a tax credit for those who sell stock and reinvest that gain in a Buckeye State company, again, if the investment is kept for two years.
Kasich expects to see the program included in the final biennial budget bill now being hammered out by a legislative conference committee, Nichols said. That bill must be signed by the governor by the end of the current fiscal year June 30.
State Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, said he likes the concept of the proposal as a short-term boost for Ohio's economy.
"Over time I would like for government to get out of the business of a little tax break here, a little tax break there," he said.
Some have criticized the proposal for cutting tax revenue, but Nichols said it is projected to be revenue neutral.
"I have a concern in general about creating new tax breaks at a time when it's very challenging to balance the budget already," said state Rep. Debbie Phillips, D-Athens.
Marietta businessman Frank Christy said the plan could be "a win over the long haul."
"You can really accept slightly lower tax revenues if it gets people back to work," said Christy, president of Christy & Associates.
Christy, who helped start a local microloan program for small businesses last year, said Ohio has suffered from a loss of investment in recent years. He said many people are unemployed and under-employed and investments in businesses could lead to jobs for those individuals who would then be paying more taxes.
"We have the best, most dedicated people anywhere in southeast Ohio. They just need the opportunity to get a job," he said.
Nichols said Investment Ohio would benefit people of various economic levels, since there is no minimum investment amount to be eligible for the credit and about half of all Ohioans are employed by small businesses.
Phillips said she would need more information to make a final judgment on the plan, but she said job creation estimates can vary widely. Meanwhile, she pointed to estimates by the liberal think tank Innovation Ohio that the current proposed budget would eliminate 51,000 jobs.
"To speculate about potential future job creation while eliminating existing jobs, I would need to see some very convincing numbers" about how many jobs the Innovation Ohio plan would create, Phillips said.
Nichols said Investment Ohio is another part of the effort to improve Ohio's business climate. He noted that Ohioans are taxed on investments at a rate of 21 percent, compared to a state like Florida, with a rate of 15 percent.
"Investment leaves the state, capital leaves the state, people leave the state because of punitive taxes like this," Nichols said.
But Chester Meeker, a resident of Elk Township in Noble County, said he feels Kasich is more concerned with helping big business and the wealthy than the average taxpayer and sees this plan as another example.
"I don't see him helping out someone like me who could not invest enough money to make it worthwhile," said Meeker, 65.
Chesterhill resident Cheryl Mowery, 49, disagreed, saying she does not consider herself wealthy but might think about investing in a business if the tax break were passed. She noted she and her husband had their own business, selling merchandise for another company, but had to close it about two years ago.
"There just wasn't the potential for sales in this area," she said.