Ohio voters have hammered gambling, sales tax issues before

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 8, 2003

COLUMBUS (AP) - Voters could be asked this fall to approve video slot machines at Ohio racetracks or face a sales tax increase, two ideas they rejected soundly in the 1990s.

The proposal by Republicans is one option the House Finance Committee was considering as it prepared on Monday to work on a final version of the general spending budget for the two years beginning July 1.

It was uncertain whether voters would be asked to pick slots or higher taxes or just asked to approve the gambling proposal. However, lawmakers would first pass a temporary, penny-per-dollar increase in the state's 5-cent sales tax. In November, voters would be asked to approve the slots at the state's seven racetracks. If voters rejected the idea, the tax increase would continue for a specified time to make up any budget shortfall.

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''The campaign will be either/or,'' said Rep. Jim Trakas of Independence, the fifth-ranked Republican in the House. ''People will understand their alternative is higher taxes or allowing people who gamble to pay for it.''

Republicans expect a shortfall of between $3 billion and $4 billion in Gov. Bob Taft's $49 billion budget proposal. They have trimmed about $1.2 billion of that amount and would cover the rest by cutting more, raising taxes or a combination of both.

Majority Republicans had agreed on some new provisions in meetings that stretched into late Monday night:

4Leave $1.3 billion for local governments in the budget that had been considered for a cut.

4Add $1 million a year for school breakfasts and summer meals for low-income children. That would attract $6 million a year in federal matching money, making $14 million available over two years and allowing 30,000 more children into the program.

4Add $15 million for the state's PASSPORT program that's designed to help seniors stay in their own homes instead of nursing homes. The plan would add $4.4 million in the budget's first year and $10.5 million in the second.