Ohio is imploding. Will the last one out please turn off the lights? Gov. Bob Taft is on a spending binge and he's jacking up taxes higher than a tailgating Buckeye. The state is about 9 percent in the red with a $4 billion deficit - and he wants to spend 10 percent more.
Somewhere on a hilltop in Lebanon, leaders of the Warren County Republican Party are telling the rest of us: "We told you so.''
A year ago, when Taft spoke at the Warren County GOP's Lincoln Day Dinner, about a half-dozen local party leaders boycotted and 21 stood up and walked out when Taft took the microphone.
It was not his animatronicspeaking style. The protesters' gripe was displayed on yellow stickers: "Save the Elephants from the RINOs'' - meaning "Republican In Name Only.''
They were objecting to his choice of a pro-gay, pro-abortion running mate. They were trying to warn everyone in Ohio that Taft is a liberal in a conservative suit.
"What choice did we have?'' asks Lori Viars, a board member on the Warren County GOP, which she jokingly calls, "The Republican wing of the Republican Party.''
"Tim Hagan was too liberal. But we felt like Taft betrayed those who put him into office.''
Viars said she got in trouble with state party leaders for the walkout. But she's still speaking up.
"He's not a conservative. Didn't Taft say Hagan would raise taxes? Now the dust has hardly settled and he's raising taxes.''
She says, "That hurts our party in a lot of ways and just reinforces the stereotype that all politicians are dirty rotten scoundrels.''
She's right. Not all politicians are mendacious bait-and-switch artists. Just Ohio governors.
"There's a pattern in Ohio that every 10 years we raise taxes,'' said Sen. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana. "They say the sky is falling and we need more money. They say it's the end of education if we don't raise taxes. It's the same old pattern.''
To prove it, he did some research and found:
Gov. Richard Celeste increased spending 2.13 times the rate of inflation. Gov. George Voinovich increased spending 2.17 times the rate of inflation. Taft has increased spending 2.92 times the rate of inflation - and he's just warming up.
Celeste said, "Once our economy is well on the road to recovery we can and should debate the appropriate level of taxation'' - as he cleaned out taxpayers' wallets.
Voinovich said, "If we can't raise the dollars, it will be a real hit to secondary and primary education because there is not much left on the bones'' - as he dug through the cushions in our couches.
And Taft says, "We are cutting to the bone, tissue and nerves here. We believe we can't go any further with these cuts'' - as he shakes us by the heels to empty our pockets for more spending.
They talk about cutting spending to the bone, but they won't trim a budget hangnail. Instead, they hide behind "education'' the way a bank robber takes children hostage - hand over the money or the kids get it.
Since 1971, Ohio has climbed from 45th to ninth for state tax burdens, Jordan said. The spending curve looks like a ski jump going backward - and our state economy is heading for a nasty crash landing.
"It doesn't make me happy to say I was right,'' Viars said.
Warren County Republicans were just ahead of their time. They were the first to walk out on Taft - and the rest of Ohio is not far behind.
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