Council Approves Four Tax Breaks, Raises Local Smoking Age
Columbus City Council last night approved two tax breaks totaling for Columbus-based Huntington Bancshares to convert a vacant Cleveland Avenue grocery store into an office building with 14 hundred workers. Some of the jobs will be moved from company operations on Morse Road and South High Street. The company also says it will create 1 thousand new jobs by 2024 and will lend 300 million dollars to people and small businesses in Linden and other low- to moderate-income neighborhoods over the next five years. City officials say the lending will spur further job growth. The tax breaks will cost the Columbus City Schools 1.7 million dollars in revenue. Council also approved two 7 year tax breaks for the accounting firm BDO USA to create a service center in the 81 hundred block of North High Street and expand existing operations on Spruce Street. The projects will retain 45 jobs and create 400 new ones. The city earlier this year granted tax breaks to firms like Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan Chase. Columbus Development director Steve Schoeny says this shows the industry is growing.
Council also approved raising the age to legally purchase tobacco products to 21. Under the new law, 2-thousand tobacco retailers must purchase annual licenses for 150 dollars. Sponsoring Council member Priscilla Tyson says it's not about raising money, it's about protecting public health.
Retailers violating the law that takes effect next year face a 500 dollar fine for a first offense and 1 thousand dollar fines for future offenses. Columbus Public Health plans to use undercover shoppers to check for compliance and issue fines. But there are questions about whether the law will work. The Centers for Disease Control says Ohio's adult smoking rate fell by just one point to 22 percent in the 10 years since the state's indoor smoking ban was enacted. The national rate is 15 percent. While citing the ban last night, Tyson and other supporters of the law failed to discuss its apparent ineffectiveness in reaching one of its goals of cutting adult smoking.