May 2, 2023
Ohio House Passes BWC and Industrial Commission Budgets
Recently, the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation budget – House Bill 31 – and Industrial Commission budget – House Bill 32 – advanced through the Ohio House with overwhelming bi-partisan majorities. Each budget largely mirrored the as-introduced version except the House Insurance Committee eliminated BWC’s proposed name change to the Department of Workforce Insurance and Safety. 

Included in the BWC’s budget is a shift in how the agency’s administrative costs are charged to business owners. Currently, business owners pay an administrative cost assessment that is separate from their premium payment. This means the total cost of workers’ compensation coverage for business owners includes both their premium payment and administrative cost assessment. To streamline this process, House Bill 31 allows BWC to consider their administrative costs when setting employer premiums. As a result, business owners will no longer pay a separate administrative cost assessment and instead will pay a premium that includes a charge for BWC’s operating costs. 

The BWC budget and Industrial Commission budget will now progress to the Ohio Senate where the Senate Insurance Committee starting this week. The Ohio Chamber will continue monitoring the legislation and advocate for its swift passage.
Unemployment Solvency Legislation Introduced by Business First Caucus Leaders
Last week, Senators George Lang and Mark Romanchuk introduced legislation to address Ohio’s historically insolvent unemployment compensation system. In fact, the last time Ohio hit the US Department of Labor’s solvency target was 1974.

Senate Bill 116 seeks to put our trust fund on a path towards solvency by addressing the unemployment benefit payouts from the system. The legislation calls for lowering the maximum number of benefit weeks from 26 weeks to a range between 12-20 weeks and eliminating dependency benefits which is a supplemental weekly benefit provided to certain high wage earners. The maximum duration of unemployment benefits will be tied to the state’s unemployment rate under Senate Bill 116, so when unemployment rates are low – like we see now – the maximum number of benefit weeks will hover around 12 weeks, but as the state’s unemployment rate goes up – like we saw during the COVID-19 pandemic – the duration increases. 

The Ohio Chamber has long asked the Legislature to address the solvency of Ohio’s unemployment trust fund because our trust fund has gone broke in each of the two recession since the turn of the century. When the trust fund becomes insolvent, employers are on the hook for paying back the loan with interest that the state must take from the federal government. In the 2008 recession, Ohio’s ill prepared trust fund quickly went insolvent and as a result Ohio’s employers faced higher payroll taxes for over five years. During that period, employers paid back more than $3 billion in principal and interest on the state’s unemployment loan.

Despite the negative consequences to Ohio’s business community, no legislative action was taken following the 2008 recession which caused the unemployment system to go insolvent in 2020 following the coronavirus pandemic. Thankfully, Governor DeWine, Senate President Matt Huffman, and then Speaker Bob Cupp stepped in to prevent a repeat of 2008 by using a portion of the state’s ARPA funds to pay off Ohio’s unemployment loan before higher employer taxes kicked in. The Legislature’s actions saved Ohio employers more than $600 million over a three year period in added payroll taxes – a tax they would be paying today but for the Legislature.

As Senate Bill 116 begins its legislative journey, the Ohio Chamber will be working with lawmakers and seeking support for unemployment reforms that put our system on a path towards solvency.
Ohio Chamber Testifies in Support of “Innovate the Code” Legislation
Last week, the Ohio Chamber testified in support of House Bill 76, legislation introduced by Representatives Thomas Hall (R – Madison Twp.) and Andrea White (R – Kettering) that would remove outdated, duplicative, and unnecessary sections of Ohio’s regulatory code and make it easier for Ohio businesses to comply with the law. Drafted in consultation with the Common Sense Initiative, which used artificial intelligence to comb through Ohio’s body of rules and regulations, the provisions included in the bill are projected to save Ohioans roughly $44 million and 58,000 hours of labor that would otherwise be spent on compliance with burdensome and unnecessary regulations over the coming decade. Streamlining Ohio’s body of regulations is one of the Chamber’s top legislative priorities for this session of the General Assembly, and we are happy to support House Bill 76.
National Church Residences Convenes Forum on Digital Connectivity
Ohio Chamber of Commerce staff was proud to have attended last week’s broadband conference, organized by OCC member National Church Residences. The forum, “Engage as We Age – Improving Digital Connectivity for Older Adults”, was an in-depth look at how equitable access to the Internet is increasingly critical to connect older adults to the world around them and improve lives.
The agenda included local, state, and national perspectives on topics from funding opportunities to device adoption to the growing world of well-being technologies. Panelists from the Office of BroadbandOhio illustrated the ongoing scope of the digital divide in our state. At least 195,000 households do not have access to broadband infrastructure at the minimum speeds of 25 Mbps download speed and 3 Mbps upload speed. Furthermore, internet adoption is still not at its full potential as at least 3.4 million Ohio residents do not have a subscription to high-speed internet and approximately 386,000 households are without a computing device of any type.

The Franklin County Digital Equity Coalition discussed the barriers of affordability, adoption, and inequity in Central Ohio. 69% of those without home internet view cost as a very important factor, and over 100,000 households face adoption barriers such as lack of comfort with digital tools, language, etc. Finally, the Coalition shared that black and brown families are more than twice as likely to be without a computer or home internet subscription than white families.

Guest speakers also detailed a number of state and federal government resources combating these problems. The Ohio Residential Broadband Expansion grant program, for example, has already awarded $232 million towards construction of 104 total projects in 62 counties that will bring service to nearly 100,000 households.

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), offered by the Federal Communications Commission, is a benefit program that helps ensure households can afford the broadband they need for work, school, healthcare and more. Over 897,000 households in Ohio have enrolled in ACP. The benefit provides a discount of up to $30 per month toward internet service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on qualifying Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute more than $10 and less than $50 toward the purchase price. The Affordable Connectivity Program is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household. More can be found at

Improving broadband access throughout Ohio remains a key recommendation of the Ohio Chamber’s Blueprint for Ohio's Economic Future. In the current budget process, the Chamber advocated in testimony for what is presently $50 million towards necessary pole replacements and undergrounding work that will expand broadband infrastructure into unserved areas. The Chamber believes Ohio’s digital divide continues to throttle economic opportunity and will continue to push for stronger investments to bring high speed internet access to all areas of the state.
Ohio Chamber Testifies on House Bill 121
The Ohio Chamber presented proponent testimony for House Bill 121 in the House Ways & means Committee this week. House Bill 121 provides employers a safe harbor election when calculating net profit taxes for municipalities. House Bill 121 recognizes that employers are still catching up to the new remote and hybrid work schedules. House Bill 121 allows an employer to elect to apportion payroll, property, and sales from those employees to an employer’s location instead of tracking each remote location. As we testified in committee, such administrative work is expensive and would yield low amounts of tax given the large denominators still in place to apportion the tax owed.
Tax Update
In other tax news the state budget passed out of the House. Tax changes include, the state-level LIHTC tax credit (House Bill 3), the allowance for bad debt for tobacco wholesalers (House Bill 66), reduction in the amount a municipality can charge in penalties for late filings (House Bill 105), and full expensing of bonus depreciation for capital assets (House Bill 116).

The budget also includes a modest personal income tax cut. The budget collapsed the current 3.226% tax bracket into the 2.765% bracket. This new bracket was then further reduced to 2.75% for individuals making up to $92,150. The first $26,050 of income would be exempt from personal income tax.

The Ohio Chamber also weighed-in on a proposed recession of Administrative Rule 5703-3-12 (Exhaustion method for property tax). Given the feedback from industry and the Ohio Chamber, the Department of Taxation held an interested party meeting to discuss the rule and continued use of the rule by public utilities. The Department will review the feedback and return to the group with next steps in the process.