STATE BUDGET Middle class faces a hit, Dems say

House Democrats visit local business to attack Taft's tax plan.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Gov. Bob Taft's tax reform plan would hurt the middle class and benefit the wealthy, the top Democrat in the Ohio House says.
On paper, Taft's proposal to cut personal income taxes by 21 percent over five years and the phasing out of the machinery and equipment tax for businesses looks good, says House Minority Leader Chris Redfern.
But the personal income tax cut would primarily help the wealthy, and Taft's other proposals would hurt small businesses, Redfern said.
Those considered middle class would see an average state tax cut of about $12 annually when it's fully implemented under Taft's proposal, while those making $500,000 or more annually would see average annual tax cuts of about $8,000, House Democrats say.
Visiting local business
Redfern, of Catawaba Island, D-80th, and other Democrats from the state Legislature on Wednesday toured Fireline Inc. on Andrews Avenue.
Redfern said the Republican governor's tax reform plan is bad for small businesses, such as Fireline. In particular, Taft's plan to increase the kilowatt-hour tax on electric consumption by 30 percent is damaging, he said.
Roger Jones, Fireline's owner, said he paid $85,000 for electricity last year. A 30 percent increase would add $25,500 to his cost of doing business.
"We would have used that money for growth and to invest in machinery," he said.
Jones said he hasn't looked at Taft's tax reform to comment on whether other proposals would help or hurt his business.
Fireline employs about 75 people, and produces materials that can withstand intense heat. The materials are used on variety of products from jewelry to engines.
"A 30 percent kilowatt hour tax is a job killer," Redfern said. "This budget is about decisions and priorities. The governor's budget doesn't have the right priorities. The governor's budget will hurt people."
Redfern said House Democrats will offer alternatives to Taft's budget April 5.
"We need a budget that provides tax relief to the middle class," he said. "We need to reform the income tax, and lift up the middle class with more tax cuts."
Redfern and other House Democrats are visiting factories and small businesses this week and next week throughout Ohio to point out the problems with Taft's tax reform plan.
Likely approval
Redfern acknowledges that Taft has the votes in the Republican-controlled state House and Senate to get his tax plan approved. But Redfern said he isn't giving up the fight to make changes to the proposals.
With Redfern at Fireline were state Reps. Sylvester D. Patton Jr. of Youngstown, D-60th; Kenneth A. Carano of Austintown, D-59th; and William J. Healy Jr. of Canton, D-52nd. State Sen. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-33rd, also attended.
Taft told The Vindicator last week that his five-year tax reform plan will make the state more attractive to companies looking for business locations and help retain those already here.
Taft said the state's tax structure is a "real handicap when we're competing for jobs."