Passing bucks to the state is not right

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 25, 2003

Tribune editorial staff

County recorders across Ohio are blasting lawmakers for seeking to double the fees counties charge for recording house purchases. And, they have a valid point.

House Bill 95, which was passed by the House earlier this month, would double fees for services in the county recorder's office. The state says it wants to pass the revenue to its Housing Trust Fund.

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According to the way HB 95 is written, however, only the first $50 million raised each year will go into the Housing Trust Fund. The increase in fees is expected to raise about $91 million in its first year, and the remaining money would go into the state's general fund.

All this appears to be is a hidden tax. The way HB 95 is written, county recorders in Ohio would

become tax collectors for the State of Ohio rather than what the Ohio Revised Code says their job should be -- the keeper of land records for the county.

What is so confusing about the whole situation is this -- the state is cutting the amount of money it flows to local governments on one hand, and then on the other it is asking local governments to help dig them out of its budget woes.

While the Ohio Housing Trust Fund, which provides affordable housing, expands housing services and improves housing conditions for low-income families across the state, is a worthy program, it should not be funded on the backs of counties. We have no problem with programs to help the homeless or aid Ohioans who can’t afford safe, dependable housing, but it should be funded in such a way that is fair to everyone.

It is not the responsibility of homeowners to fund these types of programs, it is the state's responsibility.

It appears the state is passing the buck to local government. Who will be blamed for this increase? It won't be the lawmakers, it will be county officials.

It is not right for the legislature

to increase the cost of some county services and siphon off at least some of the increases to refill state coffers.

We hope the Senate takes a good, hard look at this measure before its members vote on it.