FINDLAY - Saying Hancock County has experienced great success in economic development, Gov. Bob Taft stopped in town yesterday to give local residents a personal look at his statewide budget and tax-reform plans.
In the morning the governor met behind closed doors with about 31 city leaders, private business owners, and education officials and gave them a PowerPoint presentation on his proposed reforms.
He took questions from the audience that ranged from his plans for higher education to his decision to close the nearby Lima Correctional Institution southwest of Findlay in Allen County.
“I wanted to make sure we listened to the community here,” Mr. Taft said after the meeting ended.
The governor plans to stop in a variety of towns across Ohio to discuss his reforms that call for tax increases that would raise $2.27 billion over the next two years to balance the state budget.
He has proposed to do this in part by extending the state's sales tax to many services, such as cable TV and tickets to movies and pro sports games. Counties can tack on up to 1.5 percent.
This would be in addition to increases in cigarette, alcohol, and gasoline taxes that Mr. Taft has pushed for in recent weeks.
His plan would increase the maximum amount that large companies pay under Ohio's net worth tax from $150,000 to $500,000, which was of particular interest to business owners from Findlay who attended yesterday's meeting. Those included representatives from Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. and Hercules Tire & Rubber Co., among other businesses.
After his stop in Findlay, the governor headed in the afternoon for a similar forum with officials in the Erie County city of Sandusky.
Dr. Paul Brown, dean of the Findlay campus for Owens Community College, attended the meeting and said afterward that he appreciated the governor's coming to his community.
“I thought it was a very positive exchange of information,” he said.
Dr. Brown said he took the opportunity to tell the governor that he hoped there would be no more cuts in higher education, after institutions endured hits in recent years.
He said the governor responded to his concerns not by guaranteeing cuts were out of the question but by saying that he understood that rapidly growing institutions have a hard time expanding their services with financial cutbacks.
After the meeting, Mr. Taft once again defended his decision to support closing the 490-employee Lima prison this year to balance the budget. Mr. Taft said it's a decision that was made “very reluctantly” and decided upon after other cuts had been made.