Third Frontier: More About Fiction than Science…

Posted on April 29, 2010 by

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Written by: Bill Yarbrough, Libertarian candidate  for State Senate, 3rd District, OH.

In response to the Dispatch editorial of April 6, 2010 in favor of Issue 1, it’s time the numbers be put into perspective.  Ohio is expected to have at least a $7 billion budget gap this next cycle, and we’re expected to add to that burden with $700,000,000 of bond debt through a constitutional amendment.  Why a constitutional amendment?  Well, this is because Ohio’s constitution prohibits this kind of spending beyond our means.

I’ve read the studies on Third Frontier.  It sounds fantastic — $6.6 billion in increased economic activity since 2002; 41,300 new jobs created; a state ahead of its neighbors in preparing for the technologies of tomorrow.  Unfortunately, these claims are suspect and depend on indirect benefit estimates far larger than what can be directly measured.  That said, I’m willing to grant these claims for argument’s sake.

Let’s keep perspective. Third Frontier is a drop in the bucket.  Given the recently revised job loss figures for 2009, Ohio’s lost nearly 7-times as many jobs since 2000 than Third Frontier has produced. Third Frontier benefits represent just two-tenths-of-one percent (.2%) of Ohio Gross State Product during this timeframe (U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis) and eight-tenths-of-one-percent (.8%) of total Ohio non-farm employment (Ohio Dept. of Job and Family Services).  Behold the track record of Ohio’s signature program aimed at economic recovery.

Ohio’s spending has increased each of the last 33 years – 27 of those at a greater rate than inflation. It’s increased under Democrats and it’s increased under Republicans.  Despite this, we continue to lose ground in nearly every economic indicator.  If Third Frontier were so wonderful, why does the non-partisan Tax Foundation still rank Ohio 47th in state business climate and the American Legislative Exchange Council rank Ohio 45th in economic competitiveness?

The real issue is the overall economic environment in Ohio – a point lost on the majority of Republicans and Democrats voting for this measure. Members of Ohio’s legislature were tasked over 9 months ago to meet and make recommendations on how to overcome our budget gap.  They have not yet even met, but had no problem expanding our debt by $700 million, against the tenants of the constitution.  Enough!

Counter to the Columbus Dispatch claims that Third Frontier does not raise taxes, subsidies given to pet-industries are ultimately paid for somehow — existing Ohio businesses and taxpayers must shoulder the burden for Ohio’s bond debt. The time has come to dramatically change the tax and regulatory environment in Ohio.  Tackling issues such as right-to-work, tax simplification, the worker’s compensation system, and others would do far more than Third Frontier to spur job growth. This would attract the high-tech focused companies targeted by Third Frontier, but it would do so much more.  It would help the dry cleaners in Gahanna and the auto dealership in Worthington.  It would help all Ohioans and not just those lucky enough to be the target of government favor.  Third Frontier proponents say you can’t put a price tag on the high-tech investment for Ohio’s future.  Politicians can afford to live in this world where price tags matter so little.

I can’t afford to live in that world, can you?  Vote ‘No’ on Issue 1.

For video of Bill explaining the fallacy of the Third Frontier, see the link in the Video section of this page.

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