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Issue 1 is no free lunch, 1851 Center warns [Updated]

Tom Jackson • May 2, 2014 at 5:15 PM

[Updated with comment from the Buckeye Institute]

Spend today, worry about the big bill tomorrow.

That's the real message of Issue 1, the big bond issue that's on the ballot Tuesday, warn the libertarians at the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law.

The center, uncompromising advocates of limited government, has come out against a ballot measure which has otherwise drawn bipartisan acclamation. On Tuesday, Gov. John Kasich's office was circulating a "Yes on Issue 1" editorial from the Cincinnati Enquirer, urging voters to authorize spending about $1.8 billion to pay for 11,000 capital improvements projects in 88 counties.

The 1851 folks say that the state question authorizes the government to borrow money and spend it in the wake of the largest budget in state history.

"In 2013, Ohio's state government spent a record $27.4 billion. In 2014, state spending is set to rise by an astounding 10.3 percent, to $30.2 billion," the center says.

Supporters argue that it won't be funded by a tax increase, but the 1851 Center's leader says there's no such thing as a free lunch. 

"Given recent spending increases at the state level, passage of State Issue 1 is likely if not certain to increase taxes, undermine Ohio's balanced budget requirement, further expand already historically large state spending and indebtedness, create perverse political incentives and cronyism, legitimize the notion of state spending as a viable means of job creation, further clutter an already bloated-beyond-recognition section of the Ohio Constitution, and redistribute wealth from poor and middle-class Ohioans to wealthy out-of-state investors," said Maurice Thompson, executive director of the 1851 Center.

That's a mouthful, but Mr. Thompson agreed to pause for breath and answer my questions when I phoned him at the office of his nonprofit, nonpartisan legal center.

I asked if it's just a coincidence that Gov. John Kasich is seeking re-election this fall or if, just maybe, the Republicans who run the Ohio House and Ohio Senate are trying to help him.

"I don't think it's a coincidence at all that this thing is being offered out in front of an election," Thompson said. "This thing is all politics."

If the measure passes in May, the governor can spend the rest of the months leading up to November traveling various areas of the state, telling the voters that he's brought them roads and other capital improvements, Thompson said. 

Thompson is aware that his group is walking a lonely road. Even the conservatives at the Buckeye Institute have remained silent. People kept asking about Issue 1, and the group decided to speak out, Thompson said. 

The group's complete "Taxpayer's Guide" on the issue is here.


The Buckeye Institute's Greg Lawson wrote to point out that he did raise questions about the increase in debt for the bond issue before it was put on the ballot.

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