Tuesday, January 23, 2001

Health care tax apt to be on May ballot

By Dan Klepal
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        A special tax to provide health care for poor people in Hamilton County is likely headed for the May ballot.

        Commissioners agreed Monday to instruct the Tax Levy Review Committee — a group of volunteers who will recommend to commissioners how much the tax should be — to hurry up their evaluation of the levy so it can be ready for a May vote.

        Commissioners will later approve actually placing the issue on the ballot after the review committee makes its recommendation.

        Backers of the tax are asking for an increase from $43 million to $50 million per year. Of the total collected, $7 million would pay for other medical needs such as inmate health care at the jail and TB control.

        There was no increase in the tax the last time it passed, in 1997.

        Al Tuchfarber, director of the University of Cincinnati Institute for Health Policy and Health Services Research, said the tax needs to go on the ballot in May so it could be placed on the November ballot if it fails.

        “This levy is so crucial that we can't take a chance,” Mr. Tuchfarber said. “An increase is always more difficult to pass.”

        Mr. Tuchfarber said the levy serves about 40,000 people per year. Levy proponents are asking for an increase because the cost of health care has increased.

        The 4.73-mill levy now costs the owner of a $100,000 home $50.75 per year. To generate the $50 million per year, the levy would have to be raised about a half-mill, which would cost the owner of a $100,000 home about an extra $15.

        Commissioner Tom Neyer said he wouldn't instruct the review committee to speed up the process if he didn't intend to vote in favor of placing the issue on the ballot in May, a move that will cost as much as $600,000.

        “If we ask them to go through contortions, then we should have good faith intentions to put it on in May,” Mr. Neyer said.


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