Budget plan stirs partisan bickering

Dems rip tax changes;GOP sets up Web site


COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich has said repeatedly that politics weren’t involved in drafting his budget proposal, but the chairmen of the Ohio Republican and Democratic parties took off the gloves Thursday in what is shaping up to be a very political fight.

The state Republican Party took the unprecedented step of launching a Web site, www.stopohiojobkillers.com, to go after Democrats who are critical of Mr. Kasich’s $63.3 billion, two-year budget.

“We haven’t done anything like this before because we haven’t seen that kind of organized effort,” party Chairman Bob Bennett said.

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“They’re taking a page, I think, out of the Washington Democrats, just to oppose everything that the governor will propose,” Mr. Bennett said.

Soon after, Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern held his own news conference, characterizing Mr. Kasich’s tax-cut plan as offering breaks for the wealthy through income-tax cuts while expanding the sales-tax base on professional services often used by middle and low-income families.

“He gets you coming. He gets you going, literally speaking…,” he said. “He gets you in the funeral casket. He gets you when you’re bowling.”

The administration expects the broad expansion of the sales tax to previously untaxed services to bring in $3 billion in revenue.

The tax plan, however, includes a half-penny cut in the sales-tax rate to 5 cents on the dollar, a 20 percent cut in the individual income tax, a 50 percent income tax cut for most small businesses, and a hike in taxes on increasing oil and natural gas drilling in eastern Ohio.

Mr. Kasich has promised that the net effect of the menu of changes is a $1.4 billion income-tax cut over three years.

In addition to leading the rhetoric, Mr. Redfern will have a vote on the budget. He recently returned to the Ohio House to represent Ottawa and Erie counties. He also will soon present a resolution to the party’s central committee asking it to formally oppose the budget.

“The numbers don’t lie,” he said. “Here’s the budget. Chairman Bennett, tell me which tax you’re going to oppose.”

The jury is out on just how Republican lawmakers and the Ohio business community will respond to the proposed sales-tax expansion.

The wide-ranging list of previously untaxed services includes such things as accounting, hairdressing, funeral services, coin-operated laundries, travel agents, advertising space and time, marketing, lobbying, and Internet music and movie downloads.

Mr. Kasich has argued that removing items from that list will reduce the size of the proposed tax cut.

Mr. Bennett wouldn’t defend portions of the tax plan or other parts of the budget, saying that debate belongs to the legislature, which his party handily controls.

Mr. Kasich will seek re-election next year and this budget — projected tax cuts and rebates, potential budget surpluses, and an expansion of health-care coverage under Medicaid — are seen as the platform on which he will run.

“The Democrats have engaged in class warfare going back 40 or 50 years in this country,” he said.

“It’s no different here in Ohio. Who pays the taxes? It is business and those in the high-income areas.”

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