A Dark Day for Red Tape in the Buckeye State
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a two-year budget after a hard-fought battle last month between legislators in the Ohio House and Senate. The local media has focused on the 4% income-tax cut and increased spending for education and children’s services. Less noticed has been the most ambitious and innovative part of the budget—a regulatory-relief provision.
Regulations are legal mandates that require or forbid people and companies to perform particular actions. While policy makers love to pass new regulations—often in response to a highly visible public problem—they are rarely inspired to remove rules once they are no longer needed. Over time, suffocating regulations can smother an economy like a blanket over a campfire. One study from the Mercatus Center estimated that the total cost of regulation on the U.S. economy was $4 trillion in 2012 alone.
Ohio is one of the most highly regulated states in America. According to an unofficial count by the Mercatus Center, the state’s administrative code contained 246,852 regulatory restrictions as of 2018—some 100,000 more than the average state. Buried in Ohio’s more than 2,000-page budget is a provision requiring state agencies to develop an inventory of regulatory restrictions. Cataloging these burdens might seem elementary, but governments rarely bother to do it, which is how an agency like the Ohio State Lottery Commission can end up with more than 30,000 individual restrictions. Even when reformers cut obsolete rules, agency regulators continue adding new ones, counteracting the effect. To prevent regulatory creep, lawmakers should place caps on the overall amount of regulation so it can’t grow without limit.