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COLUMBUS - A combative John Kasich flatly predicted Monday that if Ohioans re-elect Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, they'll be voting themselves a tax increase.
With polls showing the race dramatically tightening, the Republican gubernatorial candidate came out swinging, holding a news conference that covered little new territory but hit his points more forcefully than before.
"There is no way that if Ted Strickland is re-elected as governor that he will not raise taxes again,'' he said. " … I will not raise taxes. He will raise taxes.''
As evidence, he pointed to Mr. Strickland's vote as a congressman in 1994 for President Bill Clinton's tax hikes aimed to trim deficits. Mr. Kasich voted "no,'' and Mr. Strickland's vote cost him re-election. Mr. Kasich also pointed to last year's shelving of the final increment of a promised income tax until 2011.
He said his own no-new-taxes pledge is different from those broken in the past by other Republicans such as Govs. Jim Rhodes and George Voinovich and by President George H.W. Bush. And Mr. Kasich rejected the suggestion he has backed away from his own pledge to entirely rid the state of its personal income tax, which brings in about 45 percent of state revenues.
"Listen. For most politicians, the public believes that if their lips are moving, they're lying, and I understand that,'' Mr. Kasich said. "But the best way to understand what somebody is going to do is to study what they've already done. I have a history of being a tax-cutter. It has worked. Ted Strickland has a history of being a tax-raiser.''
Although Mr. Strickland has said he doesn't believe a tax increase in the midst of a recession would be wise, he has declined to take a pledge.
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"Ted oversaw the largest tax cut in modern Ohio history while other states have raised taxes in the middle of this recession,'' said Strickland campaign spokesman Lis Smith. "He has cut taxes on personal income, military retirees, senior and disabled homeowners, and the wind and solar industries.
"If Ohioans are concerned about taxes, they should be terrified by Congressman Kasich's reckless tax plan and his plan to scrap education reform, both of which would result in massive [local] property-tax hikes,'' she said.
Mr. Strickland had largely embraced a five-year tax-reform plan, including a total 21 percent cut in the personal income tax, that was first set in motion by Republicans in 2005 over Democratic opposition. Last year, with the help of a handful of Senate Republicans, the final 4.2 percent increment of the income-tax cut, worth about $400 million a year, was postponed to fill a hole in the state budget.
Mr. Kasich largely hit points he's hit before and is likely to make again when the two debate Thursday night in Toledo. But Mr. Kasich and his running mate, Ohio Auditor Mary Taylor, used a recent series by The Blade to underscore his argument that the Strickland administration has failed.
"Last week we finally got a little truth out of Ted Strickland about his failures and the economy when he admitted to The Toledo Blade that Ohio's Department of Development needs to be faster and more efficient,'' Ms. Taylor said. "Yet he still refuses to admit that changes are needed, and all he can do is bash John Kasich's plan to replace the department with a private sector team of professionals prepared to move at the speed of business, not at the speed of bureaucracy.''
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