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Spending restrictions approved



Published: Thu, May 25, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



The legislation does not restrict local spending.

By JEFF ORTEGA

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

COLUMBUS -- State lawmakers pushed through restrictions on state government spending growth with backers saying the measure will ensure fiscal restraint.

Critics, however, said they believe the restrictions, tacked onto the state's tobacco-settlement budget, would result in spikes to local property taxes.

The House voted 65 to 30 and the Senate voted 21 to 12 on Tuesday to adopt the spending restraint that is roughly based on the Tax Expenditure Limitation Amendment, championed by GOP gubernatorial nominee J. Kenneth Blackwell, that's certified for the November ballot.

Separately, House lawmakers voted 65 to 28 and state senators voted 24 to 8 to pass legislation, tucked in an elections-related bill, clarifying how backers of the proposed constitutional amendment can withdraw the proposal from the ballot.

"It's going to control spending at the necessary levels," House Speaker Jon Husted, a Dayton-area Republican, said of the TEL provision passed by lawmakers.

Senate President Bill M. Harris, an Ashland Republican, said he believes there's a sentiment in Ohio for state government to be fiscally responsible.

Withdrawing amendment

In a letter Tuesday to Blackwell, Ohio's secretary of state, other backers of the TEL amendment said they were withdrawing the proposed TEL ballot amendment.

State Rep. Bob Gibbs, a Lakeville Republican, said he believes the TEL provision passed by lawmakers is better than the TEL amendment.

"I think it should be in statute," Gibbs said.

Some critics, however, saw a different agenda.

"This is really all about trying to save a sinking ship," state Sen. Robert F. Hagan, a Youngstown Democrat, said, referring to criticism of the TEL amendment by local governments, human service agencies and school districts.

Local governments

State Rep. Sandra Stabile Harwood, a Niles Democrat, said she believed the spending restraints would impact local governments and would "push the shortage back to people in the locality in the way that they will have to be facing more levies to make up the difference.

"It's just going to make it worse for the people at the local level," she said.

The TEL ballot amendment would restrict annual state- and local-government spending growth to 3.5 percent, or the rate of inflation plus population growth, whichever is higher.

Any unspent money in excess of 10 percent of the state budget would be returned to taxpayers. The amendment also would forbid the state from imposing unfunded mandates on local governments.

The TEL provision passed by the Legislature would limit state spending growth to 3.5 percent per year but does not apply to local governments and school districts.

Mark Rickel, a spokesman for Gov. Bob Taft, said the governor signed the bill late Tuesday containing the provision clarifying how amendment backers may withdraw a petition. It takes effect in about 90 days.

Rickel said the governor would have to closely review the TEL provision in the state tobacco-settlement budget.




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