Editorial: Ohio’s bond rating built on neglect

A recent editorial by the Toledo Blade:

Ohio is celebrating the best bond rating it has received since 1979.

Fitch Ratings gives Ohio AAA ratings based on “fiscal reserves and cash balances.” A better bond rating means lower borrowing costs so this is good news for citizens.

But we’re not as happy as the DeWine administration.

“The historic move by Fitch to upgrade Ohio’s rating to AAA comes as a result of our economic policies and fiscal stewardship that have brought measurable results,” said Governor DeWine in a news release. “This announcement is real world validation that we have put Ohio on the most solid footing the state has enjoyed in decades,” Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted added.

We’re not applauding because Ohio’s AAA rating is also evidence that local government starvation will continue in Columbus.

Cities and counties around Ohio used to get 3.68 percent of the state’s general revenue fund. Beginning in 2010 the state has set the Local Government Fund at 1.66 percent of general revenue.

Now when you look at the withholding on your paycheck you’ll see that state income taxes are more than the city. The sales tax collected by Ohio is much higher than the share taken by Lucas or any other county.

The Local Government Fund was created because at one time Ohio’s leaders understood that the vast bulk of actual service to citizens is performed at the local level. The LGF sent money without strings giving local government flexibility to set priorities.

When you call 911 there is no Ohio police, fire or EMS unit that will come to your aid. Eighty percent of the Ohio economy originates in municipalities that used to be much better served by state government. Eight and a half million Ohioans live in a location where the local government support from the state has been slashed.

The Wall Street ratings agencies may love Ohio’s ever growing rainy day fund and it’s impossible to keep politicians facing an election from bragging about the improved assessment.

Yet there is simply no denying that Ohio has shortchanged the government closest to the everyday issues of its citizens. We would prefer to see a news release increasing the LGF to 5 percent of state general revenue.

Weakening cities and counties, as Ohio has, for more than a decade, is not evidence of fiscal prudence, no matter what the bond ratings say.

— Toledo Blade, September 18, 2022