Feeling forced over taxes and slots

The state Senate will consider the budget plan this week.
& lt;a href=mailto:skolnick@vindy.com & gt;By DAVID SKOLNICK & lt;/a & gt;
YOUNGSTOWN -- A number of Mahoning Valley residents aren't thrilled by a state budget plan to increase the sales tax by a penny and a provision that eliminates the tax after one year if voters agree to legalize video slot machines.
Vindicator News Contacts were asked to give their opinions on the sales tax/video slot machine proposal that is included in the two-year, $48.7 billion state budget passed by the Ohio House. The state Senate will consider the proposal this week.
State Sens. Marc Dann of Liberty, D-32nd, and Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-33rd, say there isn't enough support in the Senate to pass the budget proposal, which was approved by only seven votes in the 99-member Ohio House. Also, Gov. Bob Taft has said he will veto the gambling provision.
Under the House plan, the state would increase its 5-cent-per-dollar sales tax by 1 cent for two years and expand it to additional services. The sales tax would be eliminated after one year if voters agree in November to legalize slot machines at the state's seven horse-racing tracks.
Disliking the options
Only a few of those who responded to the question oppose gambling, but many of the News Contacts said they do not like the idea of being forced to choose between eliminating the sales-tax increase or legalizing slot machines.
"I thought extortion and bribery were against the law," said Bruce Wilkins of Boardman.
"This is an underhanded attempt to foist upon the public the lesser of two evils," added Marian Aeppli of Struthers.
Some contend that the gambling initiative doesn't go far enough; they want casino gambling, and they want it in the Valley.
"A casino climate in Ohio is great," said Patrick M. Liste of Girard. "The downtown areas of Youngstown and even Warren would be better off if the casinos existed. They would be a much safer place to go than they are now."
Better budgeting
A number of respondents criticized state officials for putting Ohio in a position where it has to increase taxes and legalize gambling to get it out of a fiscal crisis.
"I wish that they would put themselves on a budget," said Mary McPherson of Youngstown. "We, the citizens of Ohio, have to budget. If we ran our households like our government, we would all have to file Chapter 11. What's wrong with the people we elected? Too much spending. We can see it. Why can't they?"
Cate Guyan of Youngstown said state officials are forcing residents to pay taxes by threatening them.
"With all the cuts and problems in the area and the state, we have been bullied into passing more and more taxes for fear of our safety and our roads," she said.
Kathy Johnson of Lisbon said there is still too much fat in the state budget, pointing to large increases proposed by the Ohio House for several agencies and boards.
"Now, why should the taxpayer have to pay for these?" she said. "What good are these to us? This is why people are fed up."
Not enough help
William Longley of Hubbard says the video slot machines will help Ohio's economy -- state officials estimate the revenue at $400 million to $700 million annually -- but it won't be enough.
"The same problem will exist: Politicians cannot stop their urge to spend, spend, spend," he said. "There will still be those who have pork bill projects that don't always help all citizens of Ohio. Education will still be shortchanged and ignored."
Anne Colucci of Cortland says she has no problem with the sales tax increase but doesn't favor the slot machine proposal.
"The idea of financing the state's budget with slot machine proceeds is so absurd, only a politician would have thought of it," she said. "Perhaps they were thinking that the unemployed could amuse themselves at the track."
& lt;a href=mailto:skolnick@vindy.com & gt;skolnick@vindy.com & lt;/a & gt;