Gov. John Kasich wielded his line-item veto pen just three times today when signing a bill containing some $400 million in more tax cuts, but a new restriction on wind farms wasn’t one of them.
Prior law provides for a minimum setback distance of 1,125 feet between the extended tip of a turbine and the nearest home. But a provision slipped into the bill he signed into law changes that to 1,125 feet from the property line, a move that wind farms argue will decrease the number of turbines it can erect on their farms, making them less economically feasible.
The move was the second blow to the industry within days. Mr. Kasich on Friday quietly signed Senate Bill 310, freezing for two years Ohio’s mandate that utilities find at least 25 percent of their power from greener energy sources by 2025, putting in doubt the guaranteed market that led companies to make decisions to site wind farms and solar fields in the state.
When asked why he chose to let the new setback distance stand, Mr. Kasich chose instead to explain why he signed Senate Bill 310.
He again voiced support for renewable energy and said he told lawmakers he would have vetoed a bill that indefinitely froze the standards.
“Is the 25 percent number the right number? I don’t think so,” he said. “It was snatched out really without any real science behind it. It was going to become increasingly difficult for both consumers and businesses, so we should take a pause and do a reset.”
Ohio has two large wind farms in Van Wert and Paulding counties, Blue Creek and Timber Road. The new law applies only to new wind farms, but opponents of the language argue that the two western Ohio wind farms would not have happened if the new rule were in place at the time those decisions were made.
Although some provisions of the plan have drawn criticism, Mr. Kasich and lawmakers have again drawn praise from social service advocates for putting more money into such things as addiction treatment, mental health, food bank, and adult and child protective services .
The plan accelerates the gradual implementation of personal income tax cuts set in motion last year, reaching the total of 10 percent in 2014, a year ahead of schedule. It expands an existing income tax break for small businesses from the prior 50 percent on the first $250,000 in income to up to 75 percent, assuming the state’s expected budget surpluses hold up.
It doubles the Earned Income Tax Credit for lower-income families to 10 percent of the federal equivalent. Unlike the federal EITC, however, Ohioans must owe taxes in order to take advantage of it.
The law also increases the personal exemption on tax returns for those earning up to $80,000 a year.
The tax cuts were set in motion based at least partly on better-than-expected tax collections for far for the year, before a May revenue report showed tax collections for the month fell nearly $101 million below projections.
Still, with the month of June left in the fiscal year, the state is running $158.4 million, or 0.9 percent, above projections. Spending has also been below projections.
Mr. Kasich also did not strike language seen as watering down the state law requiring outside organizations paying for political ads to disclose who they are. The bill eliminates the mandate that they provide the name, address, and high officer of the entity in the ads and would instead allow them to say simply “paid for by”and then supply the name of the organization.
The disclosure remains in place for the candidates, their committees, and political parties.
Republican leaders argued that the language argued that this will bring Ohio more in line with recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings while Democrats countered to shield the identities trying to influence Ohio elections.
By Jim Provance - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (MCT)
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