Friday, January 14, 2011

The pangs of Ohio history

WHEN JACK Gilligan ran for governor in 1970, he didn't mind reminding Ohio voters that if he were elected he'd be the prime mover in his support of a state income tax. Gilligan, a progressive Democrat, was elected anyway and Ohioans have been paying an income tax ever since.

In 1972, conservatives who couldn't bear the thought of any kind of tax sent the tax back to the ballot to repeal it. . They were in for a surprise. The voters handily retained the tax. Gilligan's risky initiative to pay the bills was the last great show of political courage at the Statehouse - and probably the last. Bring back Jim Rhodes, Gilligan's successor, who promised nothing but jobs/jobs/jobs and no new taxes. It soon became obvious that No Tax Rhodes, without ever flat out saying so, had no interest in getting rid of "Gilligan's income tax." It was an important course in his meal ticket to avoid raising taxes, no matter the need.

Nothing has changed. Much of the talk down in Columbus, a town just south of the Delaware County line, is to either lower or eliminate taxes. The argument is that this modern approach to the state's bulging deficit will make Ohio whole again while outsourcing the concerns of the middle class and poor to some yet-to-be-defined Shangri-la many years hence. (How do you end an estate tax for the tens of thousands who have lost their foreclosed homes? )

Jack Gilligan did what he had to do. You don't find that kind of budgetary heroism in Columbus today. The alternative is so much more convenient for the craven politicians who are proving what we might have expected from the so-called Caveman Caucus that has seized power in the General Assembly. They don't have a clue.

MORE OHIO HISTORY: For too many decades, Republican leaders at state and local levels have personally assured us that their party is serious about expanding its base. And now comes Republican Gov. John Kasich with an all-white supporting cast of senior officers. He explained that he merely wanted to get the best person for each job. OK. We'll give the GOP chiefs another 25 years or so, and if they still don't find the "best" person among minorities, we'll know they are making things up.

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