The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Reality Check

June 25, 2008

Taxpayers bearing the brunt

When payday came for Ashtabula County�s 102,703 residents in 2005, taxpayers wrote 25.5 percent of the total.

That figure comes from the �Ashtabula County Job and Family Services Profile,� a state report released earlier this year. The percentage quoted is called the Rate of Dependency on Income Supports and is the total amount of income support provided by taxpayer dollars divided by total personal income for the county.

In Ohio, the overall rate is 17.1 percent. Ashtabula County�s 25.5 percent rate ranks it 16th of 88 Ohio counties. Only counties in �Appalachian� Ohio have higher poverty and government-assistance rates.

It has not always been this way, however. In 1970, only 9.6 percent of the county�s wages were �transfer receipts;� the majority (79.2 percent) of personal income in the county came from net earnings: jobs.

Good-paying jobs left the area, residents turned to entitlements, and the population grayed. Concurrently, the proportion of transfer receipts to personal income more than doubled, from 9.6 percent to 21.4 percent in 1990. It�s been climbing ever since, refusing to yield to the millions of dollars spent on economic development through Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County and other public and private investment.

In 2005, net earnings accounted for only 62.6 percent of personal income in Ashtabula County. Earnings from dividends and rents have remained relatively flat throughout the period. The county trails both the state and nation in net earnings as a percentage of total personal income, although in 1970, its percentage was higher than the national rate of 77.2 percent.

It�s not just personal income that�s being subsidized by Mr. Taxpayer. In 2004, it cost the taxpayer, on average, $8,026 for every county resident who received medical care through the state Medicaid program. Then there were 7,567 Ashtabula County residents who received those services.

Why must the people of a county with so much potential turn to their neighbors for their bread? And what does it matter if they do?

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