A task force created to seek advice from businesses about how to improve the business climate dusted off an old standby-of-a-solution: offer more tax cuts, according to today’s Plain Dealer.

Stark County’s Timken Co. hosted the hearing and the panel is chaired by Rep. Kirk Schuring, Republican whose district includes the Canton-based company steel and bearings maker.

Amid all of the crowing over the need for lower taxes and less regulation, one topic of great concern to business was not mentioned: Energy prices.

The omission is odd. Energy costs and policy are routinely mentioned as a top economic driver for businesses. In fact, a 2010 study commissioned by the US Chamber ranked it No. 3 in importance when companies are looking to expand or locate.

Most who spoke at – or attended – the task force meeting are strong allies of Gov. John Kasich who has been quietly stacking the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio with utility-friendly regulators who have quickly  made decisions that resulted in skyrocketing energy prices.

The PUCO came under fire earlier this year when it approved a rate hike that immediately raised the electric bills of some businesses by up to 40 percent, the Columbus Dispatch reported. The decision prompted an uproar from small businesses, churches and schools, then caused the Commission to reverse itself and approve rate hikes no greater than 12 percent over three years.

Kasich hasn’t commented on the whopping 12 percent cost increase but did concede that he spoke to the Commission shortly after businesses complained from the initial rate hike.




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