Proposed delay of Ohio tax cuts spurs e-mails

AP News
Posted: Nov 10, 2009 7:56 AM

After Richard Handy of Fairfield received an e-mail from a conservative group calling Gov. Ted Strickland's proposed delay of Ohio's income tax cuts a "retroactive tax increase," Handy fired off a few passionate words to some state senators.

"I am absolutely against changing the rules in the middle of the game," wrote Handy in an Oct. 19 e-mail about Strickland's proposal to delay the final 4.2 percent reduction in income taxes to close an $850 million budget gap.

"I am sure the vast majority of Ohioans agree with me in opposing this idiotic proposal ... If Ohio needs more money, STOP SPENDING! That's what budgets are for."

An Associated Press public records request for constituent correspondence to legislative leaders on the tax proposal found that most was fueled by organized interests _ the anti-tax group Americans for Prosperity that opposed it, and school teachers and employees and mental health service providers that supported it.

Some Republicans have argued that because current law has the last tax cut in place and because withholding for the tax year has already started, Strickland's tax proposal is a tax increase.

But the relatively light feedback from constituents in comparison to other legislative issues, including the budget earlier this year, suggests that most Ohioans are not particularly inflamed by the tax talk.

Lawmakers considering what to do about the budget gap received both dry form letters distributed among like-minded individuals and more personal _ and sometimes humorous _ pleas.

"CUT SPENDING! That's what my husband and I are doing, that's what my neighbors are doing," wrote Alice Martin of Huron to Republican Senate President Bill Harris of Ashland on Oct. 20. "I'll bet your wife could explain it to you!"

Peg Carter fired off a few quick words when she was crunched for time.

"I don't have much time here at the library internet because I have ice cream in the car," Carter wrote. "I do think that Ohioans who are still working, are able to accept a tax freeze _ in light of your pay cuts _ in order to provide help for those who have lost their jobs because of the economy."

The tax proposal approved by the Democratic-controlled House and pending in the Republican-controlled Senate includes a 5 percent pay cut for lawmakers.

Teachers and employees from several school districts used form letters, the most common e-mails sent to legislative leaders on the issue. Democratic lawmakers have said that delaying the tax reduction will protect school funding from both state and federal cuts, even naming the proposal the Education Funding Protection Act.

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"My district cannot afford to lose state and federal funding," Debra McRoberts of Westerville told Harris in an Oct. 19 missive. "This will force our district to reduce learning opportunities for students and lead to further elimination of education employees."

The same letter was sent to Harris and House Speaker Armond Budish, D-Beachwood, from school personnel in Mount Vernon, Perrysburg, Sunbury, Shelby, Mansfield and other towns.

Many e-mails sent to Republican leaders opposing the tax proposal called it a "retroactive tax increase," a description the Strickland administration said is inaccurate. Several constituents said they received an e-mail from Americans for Prosperity describing it as "retroactive."

The state constitution bans retroactive laws. And Ohio Department of Taxation spokesman John Kohlstrand noted that "retroactive" is a legal term. He said a retroactive tax hike would be, for example, if lawmakers changed the tax rate for the 2008 tax year after that year is over.