Critics: Tax-credit freeze could stop projects

Published 10:44 am Monday, June 15, 2015

COLUMBUS (AP) — Opponents of an Ohio Senate budget proposal to freeze historic preservation tax credits for two years say it could stop some significant projects across the state.

The proposal would halt projects at the Atlas Building and the Julian residential developments in downtown Columbus and jeopardize the future development of other sites, critics of the plan told The Columbus Dispatch.

The proposal is included in changes proposed for the state’s $71.3 billion spending plan that would cover two years starting in July.

The Senate’s Republican leadership met Friday to review final amendments submitted to the spending plan. Democrats have said the historic rehabilitation tax credit is a vital redevelopment tool for urban areas and have introduced an amendment to restore the credits.

A statement from John Fortney, spokesman for majority Senate Republicans, said the Senate’s version of the budget is still being developed and the tax-credit program is being discussed along with many others.

“We believe the tax credit program needs to be more efficient, and it needs to be reviewed,” he said.

A total of $482.3 million in tax credits have been approved for 238 projects since 2007, with 101 of those completed for a total of $218.9 million in tax credits, according to the Ohio Development Services Agency.

“It’s helped maintain the historic charm of buildings throughout Ohio,” said Todd Walker, a spokesman for the agency.

Heritage Ohio, The Columbus Landmarks Foundation, The Ohio History Connection and other groups oppose freezing the credits. They say more than 21,000 permanent jobs and 20,000 construction jobs have been created through the program.

“Our concern is that there are major projects that are in the pipeline and underway, but not complete,” said Ohio History Connection spokeswoman Emmy Beach. “The ability to complete projects will be in jeopardy.”

But Senate Finance Committee chairman Scott Oelslager said projects that currently have agreements in place will be honored by the state while legislators discuss the issue.