Wednesday, June 18, 2003

State spending freeze proposed


Legislators suggest budget alternative

By Spencer Hunt
Enquirer Columbus Bureau

COLUMBUS - Fed up with budget proposals that would raise state taxes and spending, a group of conservative lawmakers on Tuesday offered a six-month, zero-growth spending plan as an alternative.

The proposal would freeze spending at state agencies through January, and give voters a chance to say yes or no to a proposed penny increase in the state sales tax this November.

That's a big change from a two-year, $49.3 billion budget bill that relies on the penny increase to bring in $2.5 billion. That bill is also about $1.2 billion short on cash, thanks to lower-than-expected state sales and income tax revenues.

"We think this is a rational way of dealing with the latest changes in projections from the governor's office," said Rep. Timothy J. Grendell, R-Chesterland, author of the conservatives' plan.

While legislative leaders and Gov. Bob Taft appeared to dismiss Grendell's idea, they had little to say about their behind-closed-doors search for a compromise budget they still hope to pass by the end of this week.

House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, continued to insist that the $49.3 billion plan the Senate passed in May is too expensive. He wants about $600 million in spending cut to match the $48.7 billion plan House members passed in April.

"We feel much more comfortable with the House level of spending," Householder said. "When you find out that you have a revenue shortage, that's probably our ceiling."

He didn't discuss options that would erase the remaining $600 million shortfall.

The state could spend some or all of a one-time bonus of $770 million in federal Medicaid funds.

Taft wants lawmakers to raise business taxes to produce nearly $700 million over the next two years.

A proposal that would ask voters to put video slot machines at racetracks could produce $500 million a year.

A slot machines proposal failed to pass a Senate committee Tuesday. Lawmakers also don't appear inclined to support Taft's business tax proposals.

And Taft has said he won't back a penny sales tax increase without business taxes. Senate President Doug White, R-Manchester, said he hoped to put a compromise plan before Senate members late today or early Thursday. He wouldn't discuss the details.

Regardless, Grendell said he and other House conservatives won't vote for higher taxes.

E-mail shunt@enquirer.com




TOP STORIES
Sumatran rhino expecting again
Taft backs concealed-carry bill
Moths to get whiff of erotic deception
Sheriff raids Hustler store

IN THE TRISTATE
Ambulances may end take-all policy
House votes on a way to delay taxes
Community mourns mother-to-be
Obituary: UAW president Jim Miller
Tristate A.M. Report

ENQUIRER COLUMNISTS
KORTE: City Hall
HOWARD: Some Good News

BUTLER, WARREN, CLERMONT
Boy, 13, accused of killing brother
Health experts advise caution as residents start to dry out
Warning system eagerly awaited
Too much rain, or development?
5 appear in court on prank charges
Butler wants out of E-check
VOA museum acquires radio artifacts

OHIO
Lawmakers debate use of 'casino' income
State spending freeze proposed
Ohio ordered to pay $21M in child support
36 Southwest Ohio graduates named Robert C. Byrd Scholars
Ohio Moments

KENTUCKY
Three Ky. Congress members back Davis
Links to Hofbrauhaus are bringing a larger cut
Diocese settles in abuse lawsuit
Ky. schools chief touts progress
Lawmaker to showcase area's shortcomings
Women at Covington dance club facing prostitution charges
Train kills mom, daughters on tracks
Minority firms promised share of Ali center work
FBI agent sentenced in false swearing case
Flash flooding traps 3 in cave; man drowns as 2 swim to safety
Attorney general: County failed to comply with law