Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell would better serve taxpayers by attempting to resolve the issue of voting machines to be used in the Buckeye State rather than grabbing hold of the “tax cut” issue for personal political advantage.
Mr. Blackwell is sponsoring an effort to put a referendum on the ballot to repeal the extra penny of sales tax agreed to by state lawmakers after much political pain and agony in Columbus. The sales-tax increase, which expires on July 5, 2005, was designed to help balance the state's two-year $48.8 billion budget.
Mr. Blackwell said his goal is to “bring fiscal discipline back to Ohio and to do so before our competitiveness and opportunity for growth is irreparably damaged.” And, he might have added, to give some discomfort to the potential gubernatorial candidacies of Attorney General Jim Petro and Auditor Betty Montgomery. No team player, he.
Mr. Blackwell poured more fuel on the fire with over the top rhetoric this week. The state is in a “destructive cycle of increasing spending, de-creating jobs, raising taxes, and eroding growth,” he said, adding that the state was “entering an economic death spiral akin to California.”
The Secretary of State sounds like a man who is bored with his current job and seeks to become governor, whatever the cost to the integrity of the state budgeting process. Ohio, like most states has been hard-hit by the Bush recession. It does have a balanced budget, although it had to swallow some tax increases to reach that goal. The comparison with California boggles the mind.
Republican lawmakers are not likely to look benignly upon Mr. Blackwell's unabashed headline-seeking, simply because of all the angst they went through to pass the state budget with a tax increase attached.
Although legislative leaders did not comment immediately on the tax proposal, the head of the state Republican Party did. Robert Bennett called it a “ridiculous media stunt,” and a spokesman for Gov. Bob Taft called the petition gambit “a reckless and irresponsible ploy that places our children and seniors at risk.”
While an officeholder is free to exercise his own good judgment, it ought to be based on more than crass political one-upmanship. Mr. Blackwell's petition notion is little more than a nuisance; it would repeal only seven months of the tax hike, as presently constituted. What it will do, though, is encourage other politicians to try to wave the “no-new-tax” banner, while leaving it up to somebody else to try to balance the budget.
Mr. Blackwell has a full plate trying to bring Ohio up to date in its voting procedures. Until he gets that done, he surely does not deserve the higher political office he so nakedly seeks.