Thursday, April 24, 2003

As governor, Voinovich watched the bottom line

By Malia Rulon
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Ohio Sen. George Voinovich, a rare Republican holdout against President Bush's tax cut proposal, earned a reputation as a tightwad during his years as Ohio governor.

He shined his own shoes, bought his clothes on sale, and when he learned public money was used to buy snacks served on state airplanes, he banned the snacks. He also sold one of the state's airplanes.

Birth: July 15, 1936, in Cleveland.
Education: Bachelor's, Ohio University, 1958; law degree, Ohio State University College of Law, 1961.
Experience: Ohio House, 1967-71; Cuyahoga County auditor, 1971-76; Cuyahoga County commissioner, 1977-78; lieutenant governor of Ohio, 1979; mayor of Cleveland, 1979-88; governor of Ohio, 1990-98; U.S. senator, 1998-present.
Family: Wife, Janet, three adult children.
Quote: "We've spent money like drunken sailors. This place does not set priorities. This place does not make hard decisions. This place just continues to say 'yes' without any consideration to the next generation."
"He would send me some four-color glossy brochure some state agency did and say, 'What's this for? Put it on a piece of white paper and shoot it through the printer,'" said Greg Browning, who was Voinovich's budget director.

As President Bush prepares to visit Ohio today to promote his plan for $550 billion in tax cuts, Voinovich faces a new test. One aim of the trip is to put pressure on Voinovich to change his stance - similar to a trip Bush made in Ohio in 2001, after which Voinovich came out in support of the president's $1.6 trillion tax cut proposal.

Voinovich spokesman Scott Milburn said the 2001 decision was different. At the time, the country had a budget surplus. This time, Voinovich has refused to support tax reductions of more than $350 billion unless they are offset by spending cuts.

Back when Voinovich was governor, says Browning, "I remember sitting with piles of spreadsheets. ... He wanted to know the ins and outs of everything: 'What are we doing and what are we buying, and if we spend more money, what will we get for it?'"

When he was elected mayor of Cleveland in 1979, the city had defaulted on its loans and was in fiscal ruin. Voinovich raised taxes and balanced the books. He ran for governor in 1990, saying he would bring the same fiscal discipline to the state budget.

As governor, he cut $720 million from the budget in two years.

Voinovich and his wife, Janet, still live in the same working-class neighborhood where they raised four children. In Congress, Voinovich has continued government penny-pinching, backing legislation for a new round of military base closures and opposing repeal of the estate tax.

He has been in line with the White House and GOP leaders on other issues: He voted for Bush's first tax cut in 2001, backed management changes to help government hiring when baby boomers start to retire, and is sponsoring the president's air pollution proposal.

But even a personal pitch from the president hasn't changed Voinovich's mind about the latest proposed tax cuts.

Political analysts say Voinovich's stand isn't likely to hurt him politically. "He has always been a person who espoused fiscal integrity, so this is nothing new," said Herb Asher, an Ohio State University political science professor.

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