COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The state's Republican Party chairman took aim Thursday at Democrats for criticizing the GOP governor's proposed budget, while the Democratic party chairman accused him of "rhetorical gymnastics."
The brouhaha over the two-year state spending blueprint began at a GOP news conference announcing a new website aimed at countering Democratic attacks on the budget and highlighting certain opposing votes on policies.
But GOP Chairman Bob Bennett, when asked about Gov. John Kasich's budget, told reporters that the state party is neither endorsing nor opposing it. He said, though, he liked its overall thrust.
"I think it's good for Ohioans," he said. "It will create jobs. It will continue to create jobs."
But he declined to take a position on specific pieces of the $63.1 billion proposal, saying he wanted to let the Legislature debate them.
Bennett's spokesman later said the state party can't formally endorse the plan without approval from party leaders but the chairman is supportive of the budget.
The state's Democratic Party chairman, Chris Redfern, seized on Bennett's comments, noting apparent confusion between the words "endorse" and "support."
"You're either with the guy or against the guy," Redfern said.
Redfern said he was "unequivocally" opposed to the spending plan and would urge his colleagues not to back it.
Kasich's budget incorporates a significant rewrite of Ohio's tax code that delivers $1.4 billion in tax cuts over three years.
It would reduce the tax rate on virtually all small businesses by 50 percent, cut the income tax rate statewide by 20 percent over three years and lower the sales tax rate from 5.5 percent to 5 percent.
But the revisions also would impose sales taxes on professional services — including lawyers, lobbyists and accountants — a move sure to set off a policy fight at the Statehouse, where Republicans control both chambers.
Bennett wouldn't say where the Republican party stood on the sales tax provisions, saying he would leave it to lawmakers to review and hear testimony.