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Local reaction to Kasich's budget mixed

Feb. 08, 2013 @ 12:45 AM

IRONTON -- The initial reaction to Gov. John Kasich's budget proposals and how they will impact Lawrence County range from cautiously optimistic to downright negative.

The Republican governor has proposed a two-year, $63.1 billion budget which reduces state income and small business taxes. But it also would impose taxes on professional services such as lawyers and require state sales taxes on things like movies, sports and concert tickets, cable TV and scientific research.

The budget still has to go through the legislative process in the Republican-controlled legislature in Columbus. States which have looked at similar proposals, including Michigan and Florida, haven't approved the changes.

Gene Myers, director of the county department of job and family services, was happy to see his agency wouldn't be getting its budget cut.

"Our office would be flat-funded," he said Thursday. "It would be the same as we received last year. It's not a decrease. I'm pleased I don't have to make any negative adjustments."

Lawyers weren't pleased.

"I think it's a mistake," said Ironton lawyer Philip Heald. "It's difficult to pay legal fees. I think it will create a hardship on people who need an attorney. It will deny access to legal services for some people."

Mark McCown, an Ironton lawyer and treasurer of the county's Democratic executive committee, agreed with Heald.

"It's unworkable," he said. "It's just sleight of hand. It will drive costs up. I think it'll hurt the average small business people. I hope it doesn't pass. It will increase the cost of legal fees. It could mean a 10 to 15 percent increase in legal fees."

Among those concerned was County Auditor Jason Stephens.

"It's still early in the process. Sales taxes are our largest revenue. There is cause for concern."

The proposed change would take the county's taxes for three years, but give that money back plus provide up to a 10 percent increase for the first 19 months, officials said. However, it would take away the flexibility of local governments and remove a chance of growth in sales taxes, something local officials needed earlier this year to keep five road patrol deputies working, Stephens said.

The county currently gets 1.5 percent of state sales taxes. One percent goes to the county's general fund, the largest single source of revenue for the county. The half-percent sales tax pays for emergency services including the 911 system and the Lawrence County Emergency Medical Services ambulance district.

"I'm cautiously optimistic," said Commissioner Bill Pratt. "I am concerned about losing control of the sales tax revenues. It makes me nervous. They're proposing to increase our revenues by 15 percent after 19 months."

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