Taft Says He Would Consider Tax Increase If Necessary Next Year

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, AP Statehouse Correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Gov. Bob Taft said Friday he will consider additional tax increases next year if the state needs to raise more money after schools, higher education and economic development initiatives are funded.

"We need to know how much additional revenue we need once we establish and fund our priorities," said the Republican incumbent.

Taft (pictured, above) spoke at a campaign event promoting the role his candidate for lieutenant governor, Jennette Bradley, will play if elected.

Taft wants Bradley to oversee his $400 million program for preserving green space and cleaning up abandoned industrial sites in Ohio.

Taft wouldn't give details on any proposed tax increases, nor would he say what kind of deficit the state might face for the two-year budget beginning July 1. He predicted the budget process, which begins in February, will be difficult.

"It would be extremely premature to project a deficit for a period of time that won't start until July 1 of next year," Taft said. "A lot depends on what happens to the economy."

If he believes additional taxes are needed, Taft said he would look at the kind of business taxes enacted earlier this year to balance the budget. Those included an increase in the state's cigarette tax and a tax on trusts held by Ohio banks.

Taft said he would rather cut spending first than seek additional money.

Tim Hagan, the Democratic candidate for governor, has proposed raising $500 million with similar business taxes.

Hagan also proposed lowering Ohio's property taxes and shifting more of the burden for school funding to the state. For example, homeowners would receive a personal income tax credit whenever their property tax exceeds a certain percentage of their income.

Hagan also has proposed abolishing the ability of local governments such as cities and counties to offer tax abatements to companies and give that authority to the state alone.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)