GOP collects nearly 39,000 signatures to put sales tax on November ballot

A group of Republicans and members of an anti-tax group submitted nearly 39,000 signatures with petitions to place a sales tax hike on the November ballot. (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - A group of Republicans and members of an anti-tax group submitted nearly 39,000 signatures with petitions to place a sales tax hike on the November ballot.

Commissioners Denise Driehaus and Todd Portune approved the .20 sales tax hike last month. But anti-tax groups and Republicans immediately cried foul and said they wanted voters to make the decision.

Portune and Driehaus said the county had already cut to the bone and they didn’t want to make cuts to public safety or to programs that address the opioid epidemic or those that aim to reduce infant mortality rates to deal with a $28-million budget shortfall.

“We have to continue to find a revenue source because we have cut, we've downsized, we've shared service,” Portune said Wednesday.

Portune and Driehaus said the county is dealing with the fallout from Gov. Kasich cutting funding to municipalities. But Tom Brinkman of COAST said he believed the commissioners didn’t try hard enough to make cuts.

“I was at the county commission meetings. They were so lazy. It was so lazy. They should be calling the county recorder and asking what should you cut,” Brinkman said.

Commissioner Chris Monzel voted against the sales tax hike and said the county should implement a hiring freeze to start.

“We have almost 40 positions under the board’s control that we’re funding,” said Monzel.

Commissioner Portune questioned Wednesday the motives of the people who started collecting signatures for the ballot question.

"I will say that the original motivations of the Republican-led petition effort were clearly designed for political purposes to help one individual in particular's chances in November, and I think it was an improper motive,” Portune said.

Portune believes the effort is to drive turnout on the west side of Hamilton County in the race between Congressman Steve Chabot in his race against Aftab Pureval. A few people held signs at the press conference that were marked “No Af-Tax.” But those who collected the signatures said Pureval wasn’t part of the equation.

“This fiat that we’re just going to raise it just stuck a lot people the wrong way. I never mentioned Steve Chabot’s name; I never heard anyone mention Steve Chabot’s name. If candidates are jumping on it now, why wouldn’t they,” said Anderson Township trustee and ballot organizer Andrew Pappas.

Pureval issued a statement Wednesday opposing the sales tax increase and said he believes it’s wrong for the residents of Hamilton County.

Hamilton County Republican Party chair Alex Triantafilou said volunteers collected most of the signatures while the party paid for petition circulators to collect 10,000 signatures.

The signatures were turned in to the Hamilton County Auditor’s office. The Board of Elections will certify them and 23,629 will have to be deemed valid before the question can be placed on the November ballot.

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