by J.D. Davidson
Ohioans are not as free as much of the rest of the nation, according to a new report released by the Cato Institute. And things are getting worse.
The report calls Ohio “thoroughly mediocre when it comes to freedom,” ranking the Buckeye State above average in fiscal policy but poorly on both regulatory and personal freedom issues. Overall, the report ranked the state 31st in the nation in terms of freedom, a spot lower than last year and two below its peak in 2016.
“It should trouble Buckeyes that their state’s policy regime is significantly worse than that of other Great Lakes states that have been reforming, such as Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin,” the report reads.
It’s in personal freedom where the report says the state fails the most. In 2016, the group placed Ohio above average at 23rd after a steep dip to 44th in 2014 and a rapid incline. Now, Ohio comes in at 40th, continuing a consistent fall since the high-water mark.
The report criticized a higher-than-average crime incarceration rate, limited legalized marijuana, continued smoking bans, strongly regulated private and home schools and a lack of sports betting.
Legislation currently sits in the General Assembly to legalize the recreational use of marijuana and allow sports betting throughout the state.
The report did call the state’s gun rights better-than-average.
To improve, the report suggested Ohio “abolish mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent offenses, with an eye toward reducing the incarceration rate to a level more consistent with its crime rate,” to increase the personal freedom ranking.
On the fiscal side, the group noted state and local debt, government consumption and public employment are all lower than average and in long-term decline.
For business, the CATO Institute calls land-use and environmental freedom the most important regulatory policy category, and Ohio does well, though it has slowly declined.
“Zoning has a light touch, but the trend is in the wrong direction according to at least one of our sources, and renewable portfolio standards exist but are very low. Labor-market freedom is a problem area for Ohio. Eminent domain reform could have gone further. The state has a minimum wage that is getting worse, no right-to-work law, and strict workers’ compensation coverage and funding rules,” the report reads.
CATO recommended cutting property taxes, along with trimming government spending on housing, community development, education and employee retirement – each area, according to the report, where the state spends above the national average.
The report uses data from 2019, the most recent data available.
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J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist at The Center Square with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher.
Photo “Welcome to Ohio” by bearclau. CC BY 2.0.