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Ohio law requires the state to keep its budget in balance. But it's up to the governor and the General Assembly to figure out how to do it and how the burdens of the balancing act should be shared.
Gov. John Kasich took the lead in that process with what he called the "jobs budget," a spending blueprint that includes cuts to local governments and school districts and to state agencies to close an $800 billion budget shortfall.
Kasich unveiled his spending plan March 15, 2011.
At a public forum at the Idea Center at Playhouse Square, State Sen. Nina Turner said she feared the governor was "balancing the budget on the backs of employees" and would impair the government's ability to provide services.
When "the governor announced his 'jobs budget,' 99 folks from the Department of Taxation were let go the next day," she said.
PolitiFact Ohio decided to check it out.
On March 16, the state said it will close seven regional Taxpayer Service Centers on June 30 -- the end of the fiscal year -- resulting in the loss of nearly 100 jobs.
Tax Commissioner Joe Testa sent e-mail notices to employees at regional Taxpayer Service Centers in Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, Toledo, Youngstown and Zanesville. The Columbus center will remain open.
Workers in the Cleveland office told The Plain Dealer the closings are a mistake that will hurt taxpayers and hurt tax revenue.
But the tax department said the revenues are about half of the $7 million the state will save. Testa said the offices have only a fraction of the calls and walk-in traffic they once did.
We asked the governor's office about the job cuts.
"It's in the context of what we want to do with the budget as a whole," spokesman Rob Nichols said. "We inherited an $8 billion budget hole. We had the seventh-highest taxes in the nation last year."
The closing of the service centers is in line with a promise the governor made during his campaign: to shrink state government and make it more efficient.
"This budget presents a spending blueprint that Ohio taxpayers can finally afford," Nichols said. "We can't keep doing what we're doing and expect to succeed in this state."
Whether closing the tax service centers and laying off workers is a good idea is a question for someone else to answer. But Kasich is doing it.
That rates Turner’s statement as True on the Truth-O-Meter.
Ideastream, "Cut, Tax or Change: The Kasich Budget Challenge," April 18, 2011
The Plain Dealer, "Gov. John Kasich says his 'jobs budget' is the most reform-minded in Ohio history," March 15, 2011
The Columbus Dispatch, "Closing state tax offices eliminates 99 jobs," March 17, 2011
The Plain Dealer, "State tax department closing 7 regional walk-in offices; 99 jobs eliminated," March 17, 2011
The Plain Dealer, "Closing Ohio tax offices will hurt individuals, businesses and state revenues, workers say," March 31, 2011
Interview with Rob Nichols, press secretary for Gov. Kasich, May 4, 2011
Ohio Legislative Service Commission, "The Ohio Budget Process," April 2011
John Kasich for Ohio campaign website, "What I Stand For"
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