Thursday, May 2, 2013

Testimony on Increasing User Fees to Fund Development, Infrastructure

I testified at two public hearings conducted by the Licking County Board of Commissioners as they consider increasing user fees on conveyance of real estate and on vehicle licensing.  Here's what I said:

The second floor at The Works contains so much history. It also contains proof that the people of Licking County have long understood the strong link between transportation infrastructure, economic development, and jobs.  Proving that point is that the voters of Licking County in the mid-19th-century paid for the railroad connections that made Newark and Licking county the nexus of the Ohio River and Lake Erie.

It was user fees that helped pay for our canals, our railroads, and our highways that have formed the basis for growth and development in Licking County for the last 200 years.  Imagine if our forefathers hadn’t invited and attracted those investments in the past.  How much different, for the worse, would our economy be if we had not seen these past investments ever happen here?

Fast forward.  Now, in 2013, we find ourselves in a global competition for jobs that requires us to reinvest in our infrastructure and to gear up for a stronger effort in economic development.   We don’t have to go far, though, to see that we are at risk of losing ground.  Muskingum County gives land away to attract jobs.  There are some years where Perry County has spent more general fund dollars on economic development than we have.  Fairfield County has combined resources and devoted more funding to marketing in one year than we have in the last 10 years combined.  

Once ahead of others, we now risk falling behind unless we act to give a more solid financial footing to the already-successful efforts of the County-Chamber-Port Authority development partnership--Grow Licking County.  Time spent trolling for dollars can instead be spent attracting new capital investment and the jobs that come with it.

And while a modest increase in the conveyance fee for sale of real estate is only part of the equation, these investments will indeed go a long way in leveling the economic development playing field and bringing future growth opportunities, and with that job opportunities, to Licking County.

I urge the Board of Commissioners to approve the request for a conveyance fee dedicated to economic development.  I also support a permissive tax increase for infrastructure improvements.  These two user fees are both necessary to keep Licking County progressing forward.


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