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Published: Friday, 7/15/2005

Wachtmann loses health panel post

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU
Wachtmann Wachtmann
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COLUMBUS - State Sen. Lynn Wachtmann's opposition to the $51.2 billion, two-year budget apparently has cost him a committee chairmanship he has held more than four years.

"The [Senate] president felt strongly that I should have voted for the budget after all the work I did on Medicaid reform," said the Napoleon Republican, one of two GOP "no" votes on the budget.

"I had continuously made it clear that I have strong disagreement with the job-killing [commercial activities] tax that everyone in the Republican Party seems to be obsessed with," he said. "I guess there's a price to pay."

Six months into the current two-year legislative session, Senate President Bill Harris (R., Ashland) yesterday removed the second-term senator as chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services, and Aging Committee. He replaced him with first-term Sen. Kevin Coughlin (R., Cuyahoga Falls), who supported the budget.

Mr. Harris said the change was motivated by term limits and a need to give newer members of the chamber experience for the next session.

"Senator Wachtmann can say whatever he wants to say, but I was in a position to move some members around," Mr. Harris said. "I'm not going to debate or talk about issues involving individual members."

The move will cost Mr. Wachtmann a chairmanship stipend of $6,500 a year.

When the budget first came up for a vote in early June, Mr. Wachtmann announced on the floor that he would vote for it, overlooking his distaste with other aspects of the plan because he was pleased with provisions designed to rein in Medicaid spending.

But he cast a surprise "no" vote when leadership began the roll-call vote without giving him an opportunity to speak against the commercial activities tax, a new tax on business gross receipts that gradually replaces two other taxes on profits and plant investment.

He continued to work with the joint House-Senate conference committee on Medicaid issues as it fashioned a compromise, but he again opposed the budget when it came up for a final vote in late June.

The other "no" vote, first-term Sen. Jim Jordan (R., Urbana), made it clear where he stood early on. He has not been stripped of his Senate Civil Justice Committee chairmanship.

"There were a lot of great things in the budget: school choice, [lower] income taxes, [elimination of the tangible] personal property tax," Mr. Jordan said. "But I was very concerned, as were a lot of representatives, businesses, and families, about this gross-receipts tax. Lynn was torn."

Mr. Wachtmann retains his seats on the Insurance, Highway and Transportation, and Civil Justice committees as well as his vice chairmanship of the Ohio Retirement Study Council.

The term-limited Senator Wachtmann plans to run in 2006 for the House seat he held from 1985 to 1998, which is now occupied by Rep. Jim Hoops (R., Napoleon). Representatives Hoops, Stephen Buehrer (R., Delta), and Mike Gilb (R., Findlay) are all expected to vie for the party's nomination for Mr. Wachtmann's Senate seat.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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