Wednesday, September 13, 2000

Ky. senator attacked on tax votes

Democrats take Westwood to task over hotel hike

By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        State Sen. Jack Westwood, running for re-election on a platform to reduce taxes, is being criticized by Democrats for breaking a pledge not to vote for tax increases.

        This year during the Kentucky General Assembly session, Mr. Westwood, R-Erlanger, voted for a bill that allows Northern Kentucky's county fiscal courts to raise the region's hotel tax a penny on the dollar, from 4 cents to a nickel.

        Money raised by the tax — an estimated $1 million a year — would be used to promote tourism in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.

        It passed the legislature, but the counties have yet to act.

        By voting for the tax, Mr. Westwood broke a previous pledge not to raise taxes, said Kenton County Democratic Party Vice Chairman Ed Worland.

        “Jack Westwood is going door-to-door telling people to vote for him because he opposes taxes,” Mr. Worland said.

        “What he's not telling people is that he broke his pledge to oppose tax in creases by voting for the hotel tax bill.

        “Sen. Westwood also voted for the state budget, which relied on money raised by other tax increases.

        “That vote wasn't the act of a fiscal conservative.”

        Democrat Jaimie Henson of Independence, who is challenging Mr. Westwood in the November election, also made an issue of Mr. Westwood's votes.

        “Jaimie Henson believes that Sen. Westwood should be open and honest in representing his voting record,” said Shannon Pratt, Mrs. Henson's campaign manager.

        “This is not a tax that supports necessary programs that Northern Kentucky lacks.”

        While the money will be raised in Northern Kentucky, it will be used by area tourism officials to attract visitors and conventions to Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, the Northern Kentucky Convention & Visitors Bureau said.

Would have voted no
               Ms. Pratt said Mrs. Henson would not have supported the bill, which was heavily backed by many Northern Kentucky lawmakers, including some Democrats.

        At the time of the vote, Mr. Westwood and other Republicans sidestepped the issue, saying the legislature wasn't raising the tax, but instead giving the counties the authority to do so.

        They also called it a user fee, meaning only people who rent hotel rooms — in most cases people from outside the area — would pay the increase.

        Mr. Westwood's campaign did not directly comment on the hotel tax vote Tuesday.

        “I challenge anyone to study Jack Westwood's anti-tax record in Frankfort,” said Marc Wilson, Mr. Westwood's campaign manager.

        He said Mr. Westwood opposed Gov. Paul Patton's plan to raise $700 million in taxes, a plan that included an increase in the state's gas tax.

        “Voters of the 23rd Senate District can appreciate Sen. Westwood's stance against taxes, especially now that gas prices are approaching $2 a gallon,” Mr. Wilson said.

        Mrs. Henson mentioned that Mr. Westwood voted for the final version of the state budget that included a tax increase on long-distance phone calls.

        But that budget also was supported by a majority of Democrats in Frankfort.

               Mr. Wilson was quick to point out that, while a member of the Independence City Council, Mrs. Henson voted to increase the city's business license fee.

        “Mrs. Henson did struggle with the decision to increase the license fee, but the revenue generated benefitted the Independence community,” Ms. Pratt said.

        Mr. Westwood is in his first four-year term representing the 23rd District, which includes Covington, Bromley, Erlanger, Elsmere, Fort Wright, Independence, Ludlow, Park Hills, Taylor Mill and most of southern Kenton County.


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