Short on cash, state raises fees on everyone from barbers to pilots - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Short on cash, state raises fees on everyone from barbers to pilots

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, AP Statehouse Correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Barbers will pay more to cut hair, aircraft owners more to fly, hunters and anglers more to take to the fields and waterways.

Short on cash, the state raised dozens of fees to raise millions of dollars as part of the two-year budget beginning Tuesday.

The increases are part of Ohio's $48.8 billion budget, which also includes a penny sales tax increase. The state is also extending the sales tax to previously untaxed services such as dry cleaning, taxis and satellite TV.

Barb O'Neill, a barber in downtown Columbus, didn't know about the plan to increase the cost of renewing her license from $75 to $110 every two years. It will cost the same to renew her barber shop license.

"It seems unfair," said O'Neill, 47, a barber for 24 years. "It seems like the little people are always getting hit."

But James Sowards, another veteran barber, said Monday it was probably time for barber's fees to play catch up.

"I hate to see anything go up, but if it helps the budget and helps the state, I'm all for it," said Sowards, 56, who rents a chair at a shop on the northwest side of Columbus. He's cut hair for 30 years.

Some anti-tax lawmakers who voted against the budget opposed the fees. They echoed the sentiments of the Buckeye Institute, a Columbus think tank that advocates smaller government, which calls the fees "under the radar" taxation.

However, in most cases the state does not use the fees to balance the budget, said Tim Keen, assistant state budget director. Instead, they pay the cost of state regulation of various agencies.

Some were the result of the tight budget, Keen said. Others would have been in the budget regardless of the state's financial condition, he said.

The state couldn't say Monday exactly how much money the fees will raise over two years.

One exception is an increase in liquor permit fees, which will provide about $9 million a year to help pay for increased funding for state alcohol and drug abuse programs.

An increase in court costs will raise about $8 million a year. It will pay for increased funding to the state public defender to represent people who can't afford attorneys.

In addition, a doubling of the average $15.38 fee paid to record real estate transactions will raise at least $50 million a year for a trust fund to provide housing for poor and moderate-income Ohioans.

Hunting and fishing licenses will rise from $14 to $18, and people over the age of 66 -- who now receive free licenses -- will pay half price.

Special permits, such as hunting deer or wild turkey, rise from $20 to $23. The increases were backed by the Ohio League of Ohio Sportsmen, which represents 200,000 hunters, anglers and bird watchers.

The cost of registering a plane also goes up to a flat fee of $100. Currently, fees start at $3 a seat.

Kathy Long, owner of Jim Long Aviation flight school in North Canton, wasn't pleased by the increase but said she doubted it would deter many pilots.

"If you already have an airplane, you're not going to sell it for lack of $94," she said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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