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Tax reduction could result in loss of government programs

Although a statewide income tax reduction lowers the amount of tax money Athens residents have to pay, it also limits funding for government programs that help those with lower incomes.

The reduction, created in 2005 by former Gov. Bob Taft, cuts up to 21 percent of a household’s income tax over a period of five years. The last portion of the tax reduction plan went into effect Jan. 1 under Gov. John Kasich, said Connie Wehrkamp, Kasich’s press secretary.

The cuts could decrease the amount residents have to pay and also eliminate government programs and services. The loss of those services affects Athens County and surrounding counties in Appalachia because residents rely on government assistance.

These programs and services are being cut because they are primarily paid for through tax dollars, which have been limited because of the tax reduction.

Because of these reductions, Athens County Job and Family Services has been hit with many funding cuts, forcing it to eliminate several programs, said Nick Claussen, spokesman for the department.

Now that Kasich’s budget proposal has been released, the department could face a cut of more than $2 million a year because of the tax cuts, County Commissioner Lenny Eliason said.

The newly proposed cut is on top of nearly $3 million in losses over the past 3 years for the department, according to a department news release.

Although there are 21 percent cuts for some households, the state income tax level is currently under 6 percent now because of the tax reduction, Wehrkamp said.

“The state needs to step up and not eliminate valuable and necessary programs for low-income residents. They need to figure out how to run them properly,” Eliason said.

The tax cut does benefit the people who pay taxes and have a higher level of income, said Doug Stanley, executive director of Hocking-Athens-Perry Community Action. But the tax cut affects more people with low incomes because they are more vulnerable, he added.

“We are asking low-income people and families to bear the brunt of the tax cut because it is cutting programs they need, but funds are being cut across the board and there is nothing we can do,” Stanley said.


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