THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON
COLUMBUS — Gov. John Kasich’s tax priorities favor the wealthy at the expense of working-class Ohioans, his expected Democratic opponent, Ed FitzGerald, said Tuesday.
But the Cuyahoga County executive stopped short of committing that he, as governor, would reverse the income tax cuts set in motion with the new $62 billion, two-year budget.
“I have an overall philosophy that I’ve also tried to reflect as county executive and [Lakewood] mayor, and that is I’m not going to pay for basic services by sticking middle-class families with the bill,” Mr. FitzGerald said. “If the Legislature passed these kinds of tax provisions, I would have vetoed them and told them to go back to the drawing board.”
But he said he would not allow himself to be boxed into a specific tax plan that fuels a Republican narrative saying Democrats raise taxes and Republicans lower them.
At issue is a provision of the budget that reduces eligibility for Ohio’s Homestead Exemption, through which the state picks up part of the local property-tax bill for senior citizens and homeowners with disabilities. The state will continue to pay the tax on the first $25,000 in home market value for those already in the program, but all new homeowners entering the program will have to prove they earn less than $30,000 a year.
“Ed FitzGerald is a big government liberal who thinks he knows how to spend the taxpayers’ money better than the taxpayer does,” Ohio Republican Party spokesman Chris Schrimpf said. “He’s advocating for higher taxes in Cuyahoga County and even pushed for a 400 percent tax increase on one [port authority] levy.
“Now Fitzgerald would raise taxes for all Ohioans,” he said. “If it was up to FitzGerald, Ohioans would be paying $3 billion more in taxes.”
State Sen. Lou Gentile (D., Steubenville) and state Rep. Nick Barborak (D., Lisbon) have introduced bills in their respective chambers to repeal the homestead change, a largely symbolic move, given they didn’t have the votes to stop Republicans from passing it in the first place.
But it serves as a platform for Mr. FitzGerald to make his case to Ohioans that Mr. Kasich’s priorities are misplaced. The first paycheck withholding adjustment recently took place to enact the first installment of what will ultimately be a 10 percent reduction in the state’s personal income tax over three years across all income brackets.
While the net effect of the total tax package was a $2.7 billion tax cut for individuals and small businesses, it came with some trade-offs. It included a quarter of a cent increase in the state sales tax, taking the statewide rate to 5.75 cents on the dollar and Lucas County’s rate to 7 cents.
“This isn’t a choice between whether taxes go up for everybody or go down,” Mr. FitzGerald said. “Taxes did go down for certain folks, but the vast majority of the benefits went to the people on the higher end.”
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