Governor Lobbying For Ohio To Join Multistate Lottery

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, AP Statehouse Correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Gov. Bob Taft on Tuesday lobbied fellow Republican lawmakers reluctant to let Ohio join a multistate lottery to help balance the state's budget.

The sticking point for many House members is a pledge they made last year to oppose a multistate lottery, Rep. Stephen Buehrer of Delta, the No. 4 House Republican, said.

The lawmakers don't want to be seen as going back on their promise, said Buehrer, who did not sign the pledge. The pledge was made to the United Methodist Church and the Ohio Council of Churches before the 2000 election.

Taft spokesman Joe Andrews confirmed the governor was calling lawmakers Tuesday to gain their support. A tentative vote on a plan to patch a $1.5 billion deficit was expected later in the day.

A Methodist church spokesman said lottery opponents were still considering a lawsuit to declare a multistate plan unconstitutional if lawmakers approve it.

Methodists and other church groups say a 1988 attorney general's opinion rules out Ohio joining a multistate lottery such as Powerball or the Big Game as unconstitutional.

"This is government setting legislative policy at its worst," Rev. John Edgar said Tuesday. "They've got the attorney general's office saying, 'Don't do this,' and they're in essence saying, 'We don't care if it's unconstitutional. We're just going to do it.'"

Finding enough House GOP votes for the lottery proposal was one of the last obstacles to balancing the budget, Brian Hicks, Taft's chief of staff, said Monday night.

Taft, the Senate and the House are also close to avoiding proposed cuts in state money provided to counties, cities, villages, townships, libraries and other units of local government, Hicks said.

The state would avoid the cuts by taking more money from the state's rainy-day fund, he said.

Taft met with Senate President Richard Finan and House Speaker Larry Householder for about two hours Monday night to debate budget plans.

"We recognize that this is going to be a compromise plan that will have things in it that none of us really want, but things in it that we'll be required to have to get a plan," Hicks said.

More companies that loan money or buy and sell stocks would pay taxes, and the state would borrow at least $222 million from its rainy day fund, under a proposal that Senate Republicans announced earlier Monday.

Until Monday, they had refused to approve any proposal that raised money through taxes.

Lawmakers and the governor also have disagreed on the amount of money that should be borrowed from Ohio's share of the tobacco settlement and whether to raise money by joining the multistate lottery.

The tax increase the Senate agreed to would raise a total of about $41 million this year and next by changing a law that allowed some companies that loan money or buy and sell stocks to avoid paying taxes.

The businesses covered by the change include brokerage houses and consumer finance companies.

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)