Tuesday, December 2, 2003

Inside Ohio's Capital

Attempt to revoke sales tax has half the signatures needed

By Debra Jasper and Spencer Hunt
Enquirer Columbus bureau

Ask voters if they want to repeal Ohio's tax increase and guess what? They say yes - nearly every time.

That's why Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell's campaign to repeal the recent penny sales tax increase is picking up steam, says Gene Pierce, spokesman for his political action committee, Citizens for Tax Repeal.

Pierce said the organization has collected half of the 96,870 signatures needed by Dec. 20 to give voters a chance to repeal the hike next year.

The Republican-controlled General Assembly approved a one-penny sales-tax increase in June to help meet a $4 billion shortfall in this year's budget.

Fellow Republicans fret Blackwell may divide the Republican Party in an election year. Others call the effort a stunt to raise Blackwell's profile for a governor's race in 2006.

Blackwell, a former Cincinnati mayor, helped lead an unsuccessful effort to repeal former-Gov. Richard Celeste's 1983 income-tax hike.

GOVERNOR'S RACE: State Auditor Betty Montgomery won a recent poll for governor.

Of Republicans surveyed, Montgomery got 32 percent, Blackwell got 23 percent and Attorney General Jim Petro finished third with 17 percent.

The poll was paid for by the Montgomery campaign. Her consultant, Mark Weaver, says it is credible because it was done by the respected Tarrance Group of Alexandria, Va..

Petro is considered by many to be the one to beat in the Republican primary. He had no comment.

The number of Republicans polled and the poll's margin of error were not given.

POLITICAL EXPOSURE: Stephen Linnen, 33, was charged Nov. 19 with gross sexual imposition and abduction for allegedly exposing himself to women in the Columbus area and then photographing their shocked expressions. He is suspected of exposing himself at least 39 times.

House Speaker Larry Householder put Linnen, deputy legal counsel for the Ohio House Republican caucus, on paid leave from his $42,000-a-year-job.

Rep. Catherine Barrett, D-Cincinnati, said she thought the suspect would be "someone of a lower socioeconomic background, not someone working with the state. They do background checks on these people."


Debra Jasper is Columbus bureau chief and Spencer Hunt is a bureau reporter.

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