Tax Foes Undecided on Jail Plan

With Hamilton County Commissioners settling this morning on a proposal for putting a sales tax increase on the Nov. 7 ballot to pay for building a new jail, the area’s most prominent anti-tax group hasn’t yet decided if it will oppose the plan or remain silent.

The Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes (COAST) had vowed not to actively campaign against an earlier proposal by Commission President Phil Heimlich because that plan included a property tax rollback that would have offset a 20-year sales tax hike for its entire duration. As a result, COAST considered the initial plan to be a shift in taxes, not an increase.

COAST’s founders, State Rep. Tom Brinkman (R-Mount Lookout) and attorney Christopher Finney, are major Heimlich supporters and Finney has served as Heimlich’s unofficial political advisor for years. Heimlich, a Republican, has made funding a new jail the centerpiece issue of his re-election campaign this fall.

But the proposal unanimously approved today by county commissioners asks voters to consider a quarter-cent sales tax hike for just 10 years, with a rollback in place for the first three years.

Heimlich’s initial plan would have generated about $650 million in sales tax revenues, with jail construction and financing totaling about $428 million and the remainder used to help pay for the rollback. By comparison, today’s proposal would raise $325 million over a decade, with $291 million used to build and finance the jail and the remainder to reduce property taxes.

Heimlich’s fellow commissioners, Republican Pat DeWine and Democrat Todd Portune, didn’t like the original plan because of the large amount of debt, nearly double the jail’s $225 million cost. To make the deadline for the November ballot, they had to decide on a plan by Thursday. But any plan that didn’t include a rollback likely would’ve been opposed by COAST.

Brinkman, busy with his own re-election campaign, said today he hadn’t yet reviewed the latest sales tax proposal but is troubled that the rollback period has been shortened.

“That’s of some concern to me,” he said. “Our pledge (not to oppose the sales tax) was good for the 20-year plan. We will have to review the new plan. I will have to see how this new plan looks once we run the numbers.”

Finney, however, said the latest sales tax proposal still keeps Hamilton County’s overall tax burden below the inflation rate because commissioners earlier eliminated the Drake Center levy and reduced the levy that pays for health care services for the poor, along with recent savings in levies for children’s services and the zoo.

“The pledge that COAST has agreed to is that there would be no net increase beyond the rate of inflation,” said Finney, who stressed he was speaking as an individual, not as a COAST leader. “The commissioners have very deliberately found ways to reduce spending, and they’ve done that with great flourish and great relish. It gives us a way to build a new jail without increasing the net tax burden on the people of Hamilton County.”

Ironically, on the same day county commissioners approved the sales tax hike for the ballot, Americans for Tax Reform issued a press release touting Ohio lawmakers who support its “no new taxes pledge.” Besides Brinkman, other politicians who have signed the pledge include President Bush and Ohio Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Kenneth Blackwell.

Americans for Tax Reform describes itself as “a non-partisan coalition of taxpayers and taxpayer groups who oppose all tax increases.” The press release for the group includes the following strangely worded phrase: “Please note that a pledge signer who breaks his commitment to taxpayers continues to be bound by the pledge and stays on the list of signers.”

David Pepper, the Democrat campaigning against Heimlich, criticized his opponent for waiting three years and eight months into his four-year term before taking action on the issue.

“I have to give him credit, he finally listened to the rest of us that something needed to be done,” Pepper said. “But the fact that four years have passed and this is all that has happened on our top priority is mind-boggling.”

— Kevin Osborne

Advertisements
Explore posts in the same categories: Porkopolis

3 Comments on “Tax Foes Undecided on Jail Plan”


  1. COAST has coasted too near the rocky coasts. Is it too late for them to toss the baton back to T.E.A. (Taxed Enough Already)?
    The bondage images of J.A.I.L. hopelessly aroused COAST. Made them tumescent.
    They forgot to lash themselves (d’oh) to the masts before sailing by the sirens of quick fixes with a dash of sadism.

  2. E. Dill Says:

    “and Finney has served as Heimlich’s unofficial political advisor for years. ”

    That’s one way to put it.

  3. Peter Deane Says:

    Finney said, “The pledge that COAST has agreed to is that there would be no net increase beyond the rate of inflation,” said Finney, who stressed he was speaking as an individual, not as a COAST leader. “The commissioners have very deliberately found ways to reduce spending, and they’ve done that with great flourish and great relish. It gives us a way to build a new jail without increasing the net tax burden on the people of Hamilton County.”

    How can Finney not speak as a member of COAST on a tax issue when this is all about a tax issue? Even his good friend Phil Heimlich has said, “We’re not denying the fact that this is a tax increase. We’re not going to sugarcoat that.”

    Hey Finney, here’s the bottom line:

    The tax increase would generate $325 million to pay for a new 1,800-bed jail and $30 million in property tax reductions. Under the plan, the sales tax would increase from 6.5 percent to 6.75 percent for 10 years; the property rollback would last three years.

    The rollback would save the owner of the average-priced Hamilton County home $86.29 in reduced property taxes over three years.

    But it would cost each Hamilton County household an estimated $154.62 in additional sales tax payments over the same three years.

    So what is it Mr. Finney? As a member of C.O.A.S.T., do you support this? And how will this benefit taxpayers in Hamilton County that do not own property? Are they still under your cost of living deal?

    Sincerely,

    Peter Deane
    President T.O.A.S.T.
    Taxpayers Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: