Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Blackwell seeks OK for petition to repeal tax

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell on Tuesday asked Attorney General Jim Petro to approve the language for petitions he will circulate to put a repeal of the penny-per-dollar sales tax increase on the November 2004 ballot.

Blackwell sent Petro the language that would change Ohio law to roll back the state sales tax to 5 percent from 6 percent.

If approved, Blackwell will try to collect 96,879 signatures from registered voters to place it on the ballot.

The number represents 3 percent of the total vote in the 2002 election for governor.

Blackwell, a Republican, said he intends to ask the General Assembly to rescind the tax and, failing that, put it on the ballot.

The General Assembly would have four months from Jan. 1 to act.

More than 100,000 Ohioans have lost jobs since 2001, and now is not the time to impose a tax increase such as the one that took effect July 1, Blackwell said.

"Ohio is going to be lost into an economic death spiral," he said.

Gov. Bob Taft, a fellow Republican, and Ohio Republican Party chairman Robert Bennett have condemned the proposal.

Taft's office said he would work against it should it appear on the ballot.

The General Assembly passed and Taft signed the increase as part of the $48.8 billion budget for the two years that began July 1. The tax increase is expected to raise $2.5 billion over the two years.

Petro must determine whether the language is a fair and accurate account of the proposed issue's purpose, spokeswoman Kim Norris said.

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