On Thursday, Policy Matters Ohio released an assessment of the tax changes made by state lawmakers as they put together the transportation budget and then the biennial budget for the state as a whole. The analysis, conducted by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, found a familiar outcome. The changes favor wealthier households, those at the top 5 percent of household incomes enjoying an overall reduction in taxes. The rest of Ohioans will see a tax increase, albeit slight.

This has been the pattern the past 14 years as the Republican majorities at the Statehouse have reduced state income tax rates, now roughly one-third lower than in 2005.

The time is overdue for the governor and lawmakers to ease the burden on households at lower income rungs. They have not seen the increases in income that have flowed to wealthier households, especially since the deep recession.

Recall what lawmakers achieved in the two budgets. The transportation budget raised the state gas tax 10.5 cents per gallon, a necessary step in view of the shortfall in investment and the deteriorating condition of many roads and bridges. In the broader state budget, they appeared to compensate by reducing income tax rates another 4 percent. They also erased the bottom two tax brackets, the income tax now applying to annual earnings of $21,750 and above.

Take the collective measure of these and other changes, as the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy does, and households in the top 1 percent ($496,000 and above) will see an average tax cut of $746. The rest of the top 5 percent will receive a reduction of $39 on average. Those with incomes below $208,000 a year face tax increases, for instance, the average increase for households with annual earnings of $42,000 to $101,000 ranging from $93 to $112.

The lowest one-fifth of households, with earnings of less than $24,000 a year, essentially break even, facing a $2 tax increase.

Lawmakers did step up for lower-income Ohioans in a helpful way. They expanded the state Earned Income Tax Credit, now at 30 percent of the federal credit. The EITC long has proved effective at reducing poverty. The credit assists working families by offsetting payroll and other taxes they pay. The additional income even has been linked to the improved academic performance of children.

The trouble is the credit in Ohio is nonrefundable. That means many of the poorest workers do not qualify because of their limited state tax liability. The federal credit is refundable. Twenty-nine states have a credit. Just Ohio and a handful of others have nonrefundable versions.

That is worth changing, especially in view of the record, lawmakers doing so much to reduce taxes for the wealthiest households. The cost of a refundable credit could be covered by rolling back a portion of those tax cuts, or shrinking the $9 billion a year spent on tax breaks, politically improbable as those options are.

Most important, a refundable credit would benefit Ohio overall, a conclusion amplified in a report released by Scioto Analysis last week. For instance, the study finds that a refundable credit at 30 percent of the federal version would result in an average payment of $750. Among other things, the additional resources would lead to more children born at normal weights, reducing the state’s dismaying level of infant mortality.

Such a refundable credit would result in more young people succeeding in higher education.

These and other benefits would outpace the projected cost of $630 million in 2020. In other words, this is money worth investing, and it can be found by striking a better balance in the way Ohioans are taxed.