Democrats from the Ohio House of Representatives presented ideas for balancing the state budget to two dozen local residents last night during a town hall meeting at VFW Post 4906 on Consaul Street in East Toledo, mixing in some partisan complaints about the Republicans who control state government.
The meeting was called as the General Assembly considers a broad reform of the state's tax structure proposed earlier this year by Gov. Bob Taft.
A key component of the Taft plan is a 21 percent across-the-board reduction in personal income-tax rates.
The governor also calls for cuts in funding for certain agencies and for the Local Government Fund that sends millions to counties, cities, and townships around the state.
"This is a very important time for our neighborhoods, our city, and our state," said Democratic Rep. Peter Ujvagi, who lives in the East Toledo neighborhood where the meeting was held. He called the Taft proposal "devastating" to local governments.
It is estimated that Toledo would lose $3.6 million from the state that would go to pay for police and firefighters.
"What does that mean? You will be put at risk, pure and simple," said Chris Redfern, House minority leader, who is touring the state this week and next to talk about the state budget. The trip, he said, is a test for a possible run for governor or another statewide office in 2006.
Mr. Redfern said he favors reducing the amount of the income tax cut for those who make $100,000 or more from 21 percent to 5 percent, which would keep $600 million in state coffers in Columbus.
His plan to reform the state corporate franchise tax would keep $750 million more in Columbus, which together would be enough to restore the Local Government Fund money without increasing the state sales tax by a half-cent, as proposed by Mr. Taft.
Jason Mauk, political director of the Ohio Republican Party, said that the Taft proposal is "a win-win plan for everyone" and that "a lot of people are happy with it. It's about time Ohio passes some substantive tax reform."
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