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Published: Tuesday, 4/1/2014 - Updated: 8 months ago

Local officials decry state cuts

Bipartisan group rallies at Statehouse

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
Toledo Councilman Lindsay Webb was among other elected officials in Columbus on Tuesday to argue for more state aid for local governments. Toledo Councilman Lindsay Webb was among other elected officials in Columbus on Tuesday to argue for more state aid for local governments.
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COLUMBUS — Local tax hikes are Gov. John Kasich’s tax hikes, a bipartisan group of officials from local governments charged Tuesday as they urged lawmakers to restore funds cut from their budgets three years ago.

The officials argued that they’ve robbed from their capital budgets and cut work forces to pay their daily bills and have been hammered by a winter that sapped already limited resources.

“The potholes in the city of Toledo are the worst they have ever been,” said Toledo City Councilman Lindsay Webb. “So it’s a good thing we make Jeeps.”

Mr. Kasich’s first budget, passed in 2011, slashed the Local Government Fund by 25 percent in each of its two years. His second two-year budget that went into effect on July 1 increased funding for local governments but not enough to offset prior cuts.

Local government officials have argued that the state broke a “covenant” that their fortunes would rise and fall with the state. They argued the state cut local funding even as state spending rose, Ohio’s $1.5 billion budgetary reserves were replenished, and taxes were cut.

Through March, Ohio’s tax collections for the current fiscal year were running 1.7 percent — $217.3 million — ahead of projections. Mr. Kasich is proposing a tax-reform plan that largely would trade higher taxes on tobacco products, larger businesses, and oil and natural gas drilling for an 8.5 percent across-the-board cut in the personal income tax. The net result is expected to be about a $174 million tax cut.

Ms. Webb, a Democrat, joined elected officials from the Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus areas and representatives from police and firefighter unions outside the Statehouse to urge the state to make local governments whole.

The message generally fits the campaign message of the Republican governor’s leading Democratic opponent, Ed FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County executive, who argues that Mr. Kasich has balanced the state’s books and funded tax cuts for wealthier Ohioans on the backs of local governments and the middle class.

But Republicans were in the group outside the Statehouse on Tuesday.

Senate President Keith Faber (R., Celina) disputed the suggestion that local taxes have gone up as a result of state cuts.

“Look at the history,” he said. “I think the governor’s folks have put out some numbers to show that that’s just not accurate. The number of levies that have actually gone up have been fewer than in the past. The reality is that, as we continue to try to balance all of Ohio’s needs, we’ll continue to take a look at those concerns.”

Cincinnati Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld, a Democrat, argued that the state budget is a “total shell game.”

“They move money with the left hand and shift the burden to local communities,” he said. “That’s John Kasich’s tax raise.”

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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