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Bill Would Pay Unemployment Compensation Debt with Rainy Day Fund

Rep. Jim Butler (R-Dayton) on Tuesday announced his plan to eliminate Ohio’s $775 million unemployment compensation debt currently owed to the federal government by borrowing money from the Rainy Day Fund (RDF). 

He said his HB467 would loan money from RDF to the unemployment compensation fund for the purpose of fully repaying Ohio’s debt "before businesses are assessed additional penalties."

"Just as it makes no sense to have a huge savings account while simultaneously paying a lot of interest on a credit card balance you could easily pay off, it makes no sense for us to fail to eliminate the federal penalty payments seriously beginning to cripple our businesses when we have the means to do so, especially when it does not cost the taxpayers," Butler said in a news release.  

"Ohio remains one of three states that have not repaid this debt to the federal government.  We should act quickly and get this done in the near future before businesses of all sizes are unnecessarily punished again," Butler said. 

Butler's office cited a Legislative Service Commission (LSC) estimate saying that if Ohio pays off its unemployment debt by November 2016, employers would save approximately $500 million per year in federal penalties.  Paying off the debt would also save the state tens of millions of dollars in interest payments every year, according to the lawmaker's office.

"HB467 will also create opportunities for insurance companies to offer businesses and workers private unemployment insurance to boost or extend the base level of benefits currently offered by the government. This language in the bill is entirely permissive, but the creation and use of such insurance products could provide workers greater security in the event of a lay off," his office said. 

The legislation does not affect current unemployment benefits, but it does require LSC to conduct an independent actuarial analysis regarding the solvency of the unemployment system with a report due by Nov. 15, 2016. An actuarial study of the system has not been done in seven years, Butler's office said. 

"I firmly believe the approach proposed in this legislation will immediately benefit Ohio’s business climate, and it will set us up for future successes," Butler said. "Other states have used this approach successfully, and I am confident it will work just as well in Ohio." 

The House Insurance Committee is currently considering unemployment compensation reform bill HB394 (Sears).

U.S. Supreme Court Stays Clean Power Plan

http://media.cleveland.com/business_impact/photo/wh-sammis-power-plant--b31903c9872440a5.jpgThe U.S. Supreme Court has agreed with Ohio and other states and blocked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from implementing Obama's Clean Power Plan -- which aims to block carbon dioxide emissions from coal-burning power plants like FirstEnergy's W.H. Sammis plant -- until the courts can determine the constitutionality of the plan. Ohio and more than two dozen other states argue the EPA can limit emissions from individual power plants but cannot constitutionality order states to limit emissions. 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A divided Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to halt enforcement of President Barack Obama's sweeping plan to address climate change until after legal challenges are resolved.

The surprising move is a blow to the administration and a victory for the coalition of 27 mostly Republican-led states and industry opponents that call the regulations "an unprecedented power grab."

By issuing the temporary freeze, a 5-4 majority of the justices signaled that opponents made strong arguments against the rules. The high court's four liberal justices said Tuesday they would have denied the request for delay.

The Sierra Club called the setback a "pause," not the end of the case.

The Court's decision does not overturn the historic policy or decide its legal merits. This is a pause, and we are confident the Clean Power Plan and all of its benefits ultimately will be implemented across the nation," said Joanne Spalding, the Sierra Club's chief climate counsel, in a prepare statement.

"The Supreme Court has already upheld the EPA's authority to limit carbon pollution from power plants under the Clean Air Act. We fully expect the Clean Power Plan to ultimately prevail in the courts."

Ted Ford, Ohio Advanced Energy Economy CEO, echoed that position. "This decision doesn't change the fact that the energy sector has embarked on an unstoppable shift to a clean energy future," he said in a statement.

Opponents said the agency is overstepping its authority and intruding on states' rights. Supreme Court intervention casts doubt on the legal prospects for the program, suggesting concerns among a majority of the nine justices.

The ruling late Tuesday "confirms that the legal justification for the Clean Power Plan should be examined by the courts before scarce state and private resources are used to develop state plans," said Melissa McHenry, a spokeswoman for Columbus-based American Electric Power Co., one of the biggest coal users among U.S. utilities.

Read more: U.S. Supreme Court Stays Clean Power Plan

IRS Releases Guidance: Claiming 2015 Alternative Fuel Tax Credit

The Internal Revenue Service released guidance on how to claim the federal Alternative Fuel Tax Credit, which was retroactively extended on Dec. 18 of last year by Congress as part of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act of 2015. The credit allows operators of propane autogas vehicles and propane forklifts to claim 50 cents for every gallon of the alternative fuel they used in 2015.

The PATH Act actually approved the tax credit for gallons consumed in 2016 as well, but the IRS has not published its official guidance on how the credit may be claimed for the current year.

“For fleet managers, propane autogas vehicles offer the lowest total cost of ownership and one way to maximize the financial benefit of propane autogas is by taking advantage of this alternative fuel tax credit from the federal government,” said Roy Willis, president and CEO of the Propane Education & Research Council.

The IRS has defined forklifts as an “off-highway business motor vehicle,” making them eligible for the alternative motor fuel tax credit in addition to on-road vehicles. The IRS indicated that the end-user of the propane autogas fuel is the entity that should receive the tax credit.

“Propane forklifts are already proven to be a solution for facilities with multiple shifts and round-the-clock operation where down time isn’t an option,” Willis said. “The federal tax credit simply makes propane forklifts more cost effective than they already are.”

The claim for 2015 must be filed by Aug. 8, 2016, according to the IRS procedures.

While they need only to file a few documents with the government to receive the credit, PERC urges all vehicle and forklift operators to consult their own tax advisors first regarding any claims for credits or refunds.

The full guidance published by the IRS on how to file for the tax credit can be found here. To read a recap from the National Propane Gas Association on the recent legislation, visit www.npga.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=1901.

Ohio Chamber PAC Endorses 12 in March 15 Primary

The Ohio Chamber Political Action Committee (OCCPAC) released its list of General Assembly endorsements for the 2016 primary election last week. OCCPAC endorses candidates who have demonstrated a commitment to free enterprise and a willingness to advocate for pro-growth, pro-jobs policies. After evaluating the 47 contested races scheduled for the March 15th primary, a total of 12 candidates for the Ohio House and Senate were endorsed.

OCCPAC issues endorsements to candidates that are recognized as the most pro-business candidate in a contested primary race based off of a specific set of criteria that identifies them as such. Of the 12 OCCPAC endorsed candidates, eight are current members of the Ohio General Assembly. Five of the eight current members have 100 percent lifetime pro-business voting records and nearly all of them have perfect scores for this session of the General Assembly.

The four other OCCPAC endorsed candidates are not currently members of the General Assembly. While a legislative record is the most objective way to gauge a candidate’s stance on pro-business issues, electing candidates that understand how public policy impacts Ohio businesses is equally important. Based off of one-on-one interviews, issues questionnaire responses, and their professional backgrounds, OCCPAC believes that all four endorsed non- incumbents would champion free enterprise and economic growth as legislators in Columbus. 

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