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Taft urges confidence in economy



Published: Tue, September 25, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The governor was in the Valley to break ground for a new Delphi Packard plant.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

VIENNA -- Gov. Bob Taft said state and nation economic struggles resulting from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are only temporary.

"I'm confident about the future of our economy," Taft said. "We're having a slowdown because of this tragedy, but we're going to come out of it. We're going to come out of it stronger. We're going to grow again so let's invest in the future of Ohio."

Regardless of the terrorist attacks, the state has struggled this year with its finances. The state's revenues were $101 million below estimates for July and August. Also, the state cut $77 million from its budget earlier this year by slashing spending and delaying tax credits involving employee job training and research and development.

Rainy-day fund: Taft does not favor a major tax increase, but has mentioned the possibility of using a portion of the state's $1 billion rainy-day fund.

Then there is the uncertainty about the funding of public education. The Ohio Supreme Court ordered the state earlier this month to increase its funding for the operations of school systems. That court decision would cost the state $1.2 billion annually. Taft has asked the court to reconsider.

"We want them to clarify the decision," Taft said. "We don't know what they're going to say. Once they do that, we'll respond and seek to further improve our school funding program in Ohio."

Criticism: Among the reasons used by Taft's administration for the court to reconsider the order was the terrorist attacks. Tim Hagan, a Democrat running next year for governor, said Taft, a Republican, was stooping to a new low exploiting the tragedy as a reason for reconsidering the school-funding decision.

In response, Taft said: "I think now is the time when we need to set aside partisan politics. We need to focus on what really matters to Ohioans, which is pulling together, supporting our president, providing relief, mourning for the victims, but also getting on with our economy working in a bipartisan fashion."

Taft was here Monday to participate in a groundbreaking ceremony at Delphi Packard Electric System's $58.5 million plastic injection molding facility in Vienna. The plant will employ about 180 people working at Packard plants. The plant, which received $5.45 million in state loans and grants, will open in late 2003.

"We need more investments like this, and we're working hard to focus on the Mahoning Valley and to be a good partner and to point investors and businesses to this part of the state because this is a great place to do business," Taft said.

"I want to send a very strong message to Ohioans right now, yes, we're going through a time of national crisis ... but it's also the time right now for us to get back to work."

Steel: The terrorist attacks also highlight the importance of maintaining a strong domestic steel industry, he said. The industry has had its struggles including three companies having operations in Ohio declaring bankruptcy this year, Taft said.

skolnick@vindy.com




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