COLUMBUS - Legislation crafted by state Rep. Jack Cera would give tax credits to oil and gas industry companies that hire Ohioans.
The bill would give employers in the industry a $2,500 tax credit for each Ohio resident they hired as a full-time employee during the past tax year. The credit would apply to owners of horizontal wells and other companies performing drilling, pipeline transportation, processing or construction services related to horizontal wells.
The proposal states eligible employees must work in the oil and gas industry for at least three consecutive months at a rate of pay of at least 250 percent of the federal minimum wage and must have completed a federally registered apprenticeship program, according to Cera, D-Bellaire. An Ohio resident is defined in the bill as someone who has lived in the state for at least six months and who pays state income taxes.
Cera said the issue of local hiring in the oil and gas industry is important to the state.
"I will continue to stay on them and raise the issues," Cera said. "But as legislators, we are limited in what we can do. We can't tell somebody who to hire. That's why I'm offering them a carrot.
"Most times when industries move in, we fall over ourselves to give them tax breaks," he continued. "This time we're telling them, 'We'll work with you - and if you hire locally, you'll get a tax credit.'"
Cera acknowledged it may be some time before his bill comes up for discussion in the House. The Ohio General Assembly is presently not in session, and the measure probably won't be picked up by the Republican-controlled House before the end of this year.
He expects he will need to reintroduce it in January when a new legislature takes office.
"This bill has garnered interest from people on both sides of the aisle," Cera said.
He said he spoke with Pennsylvania legislators about hiring in the oil and gas industry there and learned it "took awhile" before the companies began hiring Pennsylvania residents for jobs in the Keystone State.
"They say they are anxious to hire people in Ohio," Cera said of oil and gas industry officials. "I'm on them. ... I saw Chesapeake is looking for truck drivers. All I can do is take them at their word and encourage them."
Some companies have told Cera they've received complaints from Ohioans for hiring West Virginia workers.
"I told them they won't hear that complaint from us as much," Cera said. "We work both sides of the river, and our union people work both sides of the river."