Ohio's business climate continues to be a top concern for the state's CPAs, according to the third annual Ohio Society of CPAs 2005 Statewide Business Poll.

Although a strong majority (62 percent) labeled Ohio's current business climate fair, 17 percent thought it was poor. Nearly half the survey participants (47 percent) said that the business climate was declining, and almost four in 10 (39 percent) noted that it was staying the same. Only about 15 percent saw improvement.

Respondents said that the top deterrents to economic growth in Ohio were rising fuel prices, health care costs, government regulations and outsourcing. Ohio CPAs also predicted that more employees would lose health care benefits in 2006, as employers explore ways to control rising health care costs. Two-thirds (67 percent) of survey respondents estimated that health care insurance costs would rise from 10 percent to 20 percent in 2006.

Addressing specific issues raised by compliance with Section 404 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, three-quarters of surveyed CPAs believe that the internal controls provisions are inhibiting private companies from going public. Over a quarter (28 percent) reported that a "significant number" of Ohio companies were so affected.

Similarly, 72 percent of CPAs said that SOX's costs outweigh the benefits of public companies' compliance with the act, with nearly a third (29 percent) claiming this was true "to a great extent."

The Ohio Society's poll of members in senior leadership positions, including managing partners, partners/shareholders and corporate financial executives, was taken by e-mail between Oct. 20 and 31. The poll's 850 respondents were equally divided among corporate/industry and public accounting (46 percent). The remainder is employed in government and education.

A full copy of the executive summary of the 2005 State of Ohio Business Poll is available at www.ohioscpa.com/newsroom .

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