The Wayne County Tea Party (WCTP) hosted a public information seminar on voter fraud and the importance of tax abatements to attracting new businesses to an area including Wayne County. The WCTP was formed two years ago and currently has 28 members.
Part of the vision of the group is to advocate for the return to a limited government, one that protects the rights of all individuals and states, limits government spending and encourages free-market activities. Education is a component of WCTP.
“Educating citizens in order to support better governance at the federal level so that the government does those things that the Constitution requires them to do and little else is an important part of what WCTP does,” said Gary Harper, president of WCTP.
Attendees at the most recent educational event heard from two speakers, Sharon Ealey, team leader of the Ohio Voter Integrity Project and Wayne County commissioner Scott Wiggam.
Ealey talked about voter fraud around Ohio and the U.S. The Ohio Voter Integrity Project (VIP) is a non-partisan grassroots organization that educates and involves citizens in various aspects of the electoral process in an effort to ensure unbiased and lawful elections.
She provided several statistics in a slide presentation, including a report in 2009 from CNN that more than three million registered voters were dead and 12 million were found to be ineligible to vote. Colorado’s Secretary of State reported in 2011 the state found more than 16,000 non-citizen voters through driver’s license comparison.
Ohio VIP was founded in January 2011 in Hamilton County after election irregularities in the November 2010 John Williams/Tracie Hunter Juvenile Court judicial race. That election hung on 850 provisional ballots that were cast in the wrong precinct. Ohio VIP recruits and trains volunteer poll workers to help watch and catch errors at the polls.
“We are working to protect the rights of legitimate voters and the poll workers can play a big part in that,” Ealey said.
Harper also told the group that it is the right of every citizen to challenge a vote if they suspect fraud.
“If you see a neighbor’s name on the registration list that you know is deceased and you can provide proof, you can get that name removed. Voter fraud is a reality. Do I think we have a problem here in Wayne County? No, not really. We just want to make sure that elections are won and not bought,” Harper said.
VIP is built on the model used by True the Vote that is an organization “developed by citizens for citizens” to protect legitimate voters. True the Vote is in 45 states and was part of the recent Wisconsin recall election.
VIP is the Ohio version of True the Vote. There are plans to put a VIP coordinator in each of the 88 counties in Ohio along with a voter registration liaison that will take on the voter challenges.
The second speaker of the evening discussed a slightly different topic, tax abatements, particularly those in Wayne County. Wiggam started by defining what tax abatement is and is not. Tax abatement refers to cutting or temporarily easing tax burdens on businesses, usually for an agreement for hiring more people or completing a capital improvement such as adding to building or buying upgraded equipment.
Wiggam said that tax abatement is not what happened at Solyndra where the Department of Energy gave the company $34.7 billion for 60,000 jobs costing $578,333 per job. Solyndra has since gone out of business.
Wiggam told the group the kind of taxes a business could pay, including a franchise tax, payroll taxes, unemployment taxes, licenses, inventory tax, commercial taxes or the upcoming Affordable Care health care act penalties. Two examples of companies that are eligible for tax abatements in Wayne County include manufacturers or distributors that are selling outside of the county and bringing money back into the county.
Commercial property owners pay hundreds of thousands of dollars more in taxes for land valued the same as residential. Communities can either grant tax abatement to relieve some of the tax burden to provide incentive for a new company to come into the area or to expand in the area or collect no taxes at all if a company decides not to come in or decides to close.
“We can’t do like the federal government did and give the taxpayers’ money to the company like they did with Solyndra. We can only subtract from the tax burden. The county will make it back in payroll taxes and other taxes the company will end up paying,” he said.
Wiggam said that companies don’t typically consider tax abatements as the number one reason for moving into an area. Instead they consider whether the community wants them to come into the area.
“Businesses will look first at how local leaders treat them. Companies also look at the labor pool available in the area and the competition from other companies for the same labor,” he said.
The county works with townships and cities on abatements. He told the audience that many times local governments will ask the company to estimate how many people they will be able to hire. Tax abatement agreements are often based on the number of employees the company intends to hire.
“Economic activity is more important to a community than direct taxation,” Wiggam said.
Published: June 27, 2012