Things get curiouser and curiouser in Columbus.
Under the gun to balance a two-year state budget that has as much as $1.5 billion in red ink, the Republican leadership comes up with the idea of a two-day sales tax moratorium -- a "tax holiday."
How, we wonder, will it help the state's bottom line to pass up collecting tens of millions of dollars in sales taxes? And how can any legislator who has railed in the past against "unfunded mandates" support a measure that would cut local as well as state tax income?
House Speaker Larry Householder says the tax holidays should be observed Jan. 25 and 26. It took about two minutes for people to point out that a January tax holiday would almost certainly depress pre-holiday shopping. Many people would put off buying big-ticket holiday gifts.
No matter. Householder is now telling Gov. Bob Taft that the tax holiday is "non-negotiable." If the governor expects the Republican House to help him balance the budget, he's going to have to sign on to the holiday, Householder says.
How does a gimmick with such obvious shortcomings and pitfalls -- and which actually makes it more difficult for the state to balance its budget -- become a legislative ultimatum?
Priorities: Under normal circumstances, we'd love to see an initiative that would increase the traffic in Ohio's stores. But these aren't normal times, and the first problem the General Assembly has to come to grips with is not having enough money to fund basic state services.
Besides, nobody is sure of how much the holiday would cost. Householder estimates the state's lost revenue at $27 million, while the Legislative Service Commission, a nonpartisan budget office, puts the price tag at $40 million. And the Associated Press reports that many tax policy analysts question the value of such holidays. Not only do consumers delay purchases, retailers sometimes raise their prices.
By the way, while the Republican plan would forgive the sales tax on, say, a $2,000 big-screen TV made in Asia, it specifically excludes auto sales. If the legislators want to give the Ohio economy a shot in the arm, how about a sales tax moratorium on any car built in Ohio -- like certain Jeeps and Hondas and all the Cavaliers and Sunfires rolling off the line at Lordstown. That would make more sense to us.