Candidates Play Ohio’s Economic Woes to their Advantage

Akron Beacon Journal - October 5, 2006

The Akron Beacon Journal

By Julie Carr Smyth

CINCINNATI – Candidates for Ohio governor differ in their approaches to solving the state’s economic problems, but they also differed Wednesday on several of the facts involved.

Republican nominee Ken Blackwell often repeated a claim during the third debate between him and Democrat Ted Strickland that Strickland’s plans will take a generation to take effect, a lag Blackwell says Ohio can’t afford.

His campaign says the premise for the claim is that Strickland proposes waiting and watching how Ohio’s new tax reforms play out, investing in college accounts – the first of which won’t come due for 18 years – and heavily pushing resources into early childhood education rather than immediate job creation programs.

The Strickland camp defends its Turnaround Ohio plan as having both short- and long-term aspects. Spokesman Keith Dailey said many of Strickland’s proposals would immediately affect families, such as expanded health screenings and preschool access and expanded work force development opportunities. Strickland, a congressman, also supports the minimum wage increase on November’s ballot as a positive for 700,000 Ohioans.

Strickland’s claim during the debate that Blackwell’s flat-tax proposal would raise taxes for 60 percent of Ohioans is also a point of contention. The plan would take the income tax rate for all Ohioans to 3.25 percent over several years.

Strickland’s figure came from Cleveland-based Policy Matters Ohio, which recently reported that 61 percent of Ohio taxpayers would pay more in state income taxes if Blackwell’s proposal were enacted, while only 16 percent would pay less.

Blackwell spokesman Carlo LoParo said the analysis doesn’t take into account the effects of tax exemptions, which the Blackwell plan would retain, on actual tax payments. He said Ohioans making under $20,000 pay no income tax under the plan. Under recently enacted tax changes, Ohioans making under $10,000 already pay no income taxes.

Blackwell, the secretary of state, called Strickland a tax-and-spender with 83 votes for taxes or against tax relief in Congress. Blackwell’s campaign said Strickland had repeatedly opposed tax cuts, tax reductions and tax breaks.

Strickland also has voted for some tax reductions and tax credits. And some of the votes cited by Blackwell are such stands as Strickland’s vote against President Bush’s tax cut package, which many Democrats opposed because they said the package helped the wealthy with little relief for middle-income taxpayers. Another Strickland vote was to balance the federal budget.

Blackwell has focused on Strickland’s absence rate and his lack of success in passing bills, something not uncommon among minority party members. He also points to the high poverty rate in Strickland’s rural, southeastern Ohio district.

“What makes us think that a man who can’t turn around his district can turn around Ohio?” Blackwell asked.

Strickland said he played a role in saving jobs at Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel, helped preserve jobs and health benefits at the uranium enrichment plant in Piketon and helped laid-off coal miners get government resources for retraining.

Associated Press Writer Dan Sewell contributed to this report.

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