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Moving to Ohio Doesn’t Make You a Bad Plumber

Can you imagine Pritzker doing this? Haha.

Moving to Ohio Doesn’t Make You a Bad Plumber

A new law recognizing occupational licenses from other states removes a costly barrier to work.

By Haley Holik and Michael Greibrok, WSJ

Jan. 13, 2023 5:24 pm ET

Ohio has a shortage of plumbers. The job has an average salary of nearly $60,000—20% more than the typical worker makes in the Buckeye State. Some Ohio plumbers make six figures, which goes pretty far in a state where the cost of living is among the lowest in the nation.

There’s no single way to solve the shortage, but one contributing factor has been dealt with. On New Year’s Day, Gov. Mike DeWine signed a universal licensing recognition bill that’s one of the strongest in the nation. It covers the roughly 650 Ohio professions—accounting for roughly 1 in 5 jobs—that require workers to obtain an occupational license. Acquiring these government permission slips typically involves some combination of education and training, and would-be license holders must almost always pay the state for the privilege of working.

A licensed plumbing contractor—or preschool teacher or barber—who moves to Ohio from another state will no longer have to endure a burdensome bureaucratic process to get relicensed. Even if they’d already gone through another state’s licensing system, Ohio demanded they do it again. No longer. With universal licensing recognition, if you checked the right boxes in another state and meet basic standards for public safety, you’re free to get to work the moment you get to Ohio.

According to the Institute for Justice, the average Ohio license in lower-income industries costs $145 and takes 269 days to obtain. For plumbing contractors, the damage is $138 along with two exams, with a further requirement that applicants have five years of experience. Why would someone who can already do the job move to Ohio and endure these demands?

That’s especially true for the people who are perhaps most likely to move: the residents of neighboring states. In Pennsylvania, licenses in lower-wage fields take 120 days to get, but in Ohio they usually take more than twice as long. Ditto West Virginia, where the time commitment is nearly 20% lower. There’s little incentive to go to a state where the burdens are higher. The process takes even longer in Indiana, Michigan and Kentucky, but again, why should anyone have to go through it again?

Ohio isn’t the first state to get wise. Twenty states have some type of universal licensing law. But Ohio’s goes further than most by allowing people to get licenses based on out-of-state work experience. In other words, if you try to work in a licensed profession in Ohio after doing the same job in a state that doesn’t require such a license, you won’t have to start at square one. This will be especially useful for people coming from states with fewer licensed industries. Thousands of people move to Ohio every year from Texas, Colorado and Missouri. Now that it’s easier to get a job, more will surely come.

Ohio’s new law won’t solve every problem with the state’s licensing system. There are still too many licenses that take too much time and cost too much money, usually because existing industry players want to limit competition. Ohio would do well to pare back licensing altogether, which states like Florida are starting to do.

Universal licensing recognition is still a powerful step in the right direction. It will give families more reason to move to Ohio. Those that come will be free to get to work much faster—and without paying for the privilege. With any luck, in the near future, it won’t be so hard to find a plumber.

Ms. Holik is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Government Accountability, where Mr. Greibrok is a senior research fellow.

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