By Maggie Thurber | Special to Ohio Watchdog
COLUMBUS — The debate over Gov. John Kasich‘s proposed increase in the oil and gas severance tax has a new player — Americans for Tax Reform, a nonprofit opposed “to all tax increases as a matter of principle.”
ATR is best known for its Taxpayer Protection Pledge, a no-new-tax promise it asks all candidates for federal and state office to make. Kasich signed the governor pledge, but maintains that the proposed increase will not violate that promise.
“For what it’s worth, (Grover) Norquist (ATR founder and promoter of the pledge) is on the record saying that lawmakers can vote for Kasich’s plan without violating his group’s no-new-taxes pledge, because the severance-tax increase would be wholly offset by the income-tax cut,” according to The Columbus Dispatch.
But now ATR is supporting an independent Ohio Tax Pledge that asks states candidates and officeholders to promise they will “not vote to raise the severance tax on oil, gas and other liquids in Ohio…” The Ohio Tax Pledge is the product of Ohio Rising, an independent nonprofit.
No one has signed the pledge, but state Rep. Dorothy Pelanda, R-Marysville, told a constituent that Ohio law prevents anyone from asking for such a pledge.
“Pelanda, when asked to sign a pledge not to increase Ohio’s oil and gas severance taxes, replied to a constituent with a thinly-veiled threat against the Ohio Tax Pledge. Instead of responding directly to the citizen’s request, Pelanda copied and pasted a section of the Ohio Revised Code which spells out a $500 – $1,000 fine for asking candidates to sign vote pledges of any kind,” MediaTrackers reports.
“ORC 3599.10, a 1953 section of Ohio’s election law, dictates that no one may demand of a candidate for the Ohio General Assembly any pledge related to ‘any legislation, question, or proposition that may come before the general assembly.’ Representative Pelanda, a first-term appointee campaigning for the newly-drawn 86th House District, suggested by her email that the citizen who contacted her was ‘guilty of a corrupt practice’ according to state law.”
As MediaTrackers points out, the law is not enforced considering the other state officeholders who have joined Kasich in signing the ATR pledge.
Republican support of the tax is being questioned. A blog post by Chris Littleton on the Ohio Tax Pledge page says, “I’m not a partisan person in anyway, but if you are — ask yourself one last question. If this was (former Gov. Ted) Strickland (a Democrat) and not Kasich (a Republican) — what would you think about a wealth redistribution scheme which quadruples taxes on a single group of small business owners, decimates their lives, and destroys new job opportunities; while offering the plundered money to people who have nothing to do with the process?”
Legislators removed the severance tax increase Kasich included in the mid-biennium budget review. However, the tax proposal could be brought before the General Assembly in a special summer session or the lame-duck session following the November election.