Valley Dems say Blasdel took a 'potshot'
But the Republican lawmaker calls his letter 'an olive branch.'
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- State Rep. Charles Blasdel, the only Republican in the Mahoning Valley's state legislative delegation, sent letters to five Democratic colleagues urging them to stand with him against any efforts to increase state spending as the Legislature closes a $720 million shortfall.
But the Democratic legislators see the letter differently.
Blasdel, of East Liverpool, R-1st, said the letter to the Valley Democrats was an attempt to extend "an olive branch" to seek their support on holding the line on state spending.
Blasdel sent the letter Tuesday to state Reps. John Boccieri of New Middletown, Kenneth A. Carano of Austintown, Sandra Stabile Harwood of Niles, Sylvester D. Patton Jr. of Youngstown and Dan Sferra of Warren.
The Democratic legislators fired off a response to Blasdel saying that his letter was a "potshot" at them and that they were astonished and disappointed with its content.
"Your letter sounds like political speak from a politician who's prepared to vote for the state's largest tax increase," the Democratic letter reads.
Blasdel has been a vocal critic of Gov. Bob Taft's budget plan and says he cannot support it.
Blasdel wrote in his letter that when budget bills were debated in the past, there were attempts by Democrats "to balloon state spending in an unprecedented and irresponsible way." Blasdel pointed to Democratic efforts in recent years to add billions of dollars to the state budget that were rejected by the Republican majority.
In response, the Democratic legislators pointed to Blasdel's votes for the current state budget that increased spending 13 percent, and his support for lifting college tuition caps and depleting the state's $1.1 billion rainy-day fund.
"I find it hard to believe that Rep. Blasdel -- and I like Chuck a lot -- is taking such a cheap shot at Democrats," said Boccieri.
Blasdel said he has been encouraged by recent comments made by Democratic state legislators from the Valley that they "have had a change of heart and joined the budget-cutting bandwagon ... I would hope as we debate the coming budget corrections bill you will join me in setting aside rhetoric between parties and work for the constituents of the Mahoning Valley."
Blasdel urged the legislators to "break party lines if necessary" to stop increases in state spending.
Carano, D-59th, said Democrats are against any increases in state spending.
Sferra, D-64th, said he wasn't offended by Blasdel's letter, and understands why the Republican sent it.
"The Republicans know they're in a pickle, and he's trying to get support," he said.
Stabile Harwood, D-65th, said she's on record opposing any increases in state spending.