By State Senator Bill Beagle
“No!” If you ask most people if they could have an influence on their state government that is how most would answer, “No!”
But, in the last couple of weeks the Ohio legislature has listened, your voice has been heard and your advocacy at the local level has had a huge impact.
The Ohio Historic Tax Credit Program is highly competitive and has affected many communities throughout the state. In just the last round of awards, $41.8 million was awarded through the program, and is expected to attract almost $600 million in private investment. Talk about economic development!
This is significant because these tax credits are often critical in making it feasible to renovate and reuse historic buildings, like the Fort Piqua Hotel and the Weustoff and Getz building which I visited a few months ago. Without the credit, it is typically more economical to tear an old building down and build new.
The Ohio Senate is working on the state budget and a provision was placed in the bill that would put a two year moratorium on the popular Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credit program. The state would have ceased to issue these credits for the next two years while the Development Services Agency transitioned the program to one that offers grants instead of tax credits.
Well, the outcry was immediate, overwhelming, and fierce.
Locally and across the state, advocates for the Historic Tax Credit got busy contacting Senators like me, their State Representatives and even the Governor’s office.
So, along with Senator Peggy Lehner and others, I submitted an amendment to reverse this policy change. Last week Senate removed the freeze and restored the program, removing uncertainty that suddenly put local projects that were counting on these credits at risk.
This outcome was the direct result of locals reaching out to be heard. Advocating to your State Senator and State Representative can work. It isn’t always this successful this quickly, but it is always worth the effort.
If the idea of changing this tax credit program to a grant program is recommended by the Development Services Agency, further advocacy may be necessary by those who like the current program. Preservation and economic development advocates have great cause to celebrate … for the moment.
Whether you want to advocate for preservation, tax policy, or against regulatory hassles, it is always beneficial to let all levels of government officials know how your business or family is being impacted by government. Let us know when government is working well too; you never know when someone will try to convince policy makers that something that is working is broken.