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Lakewood Looks to Hire Statehouse Lobbyist

Mayor Michael Summers said state government has a “township versus city mentality,” and Lakewood’s not coming out on the winning end.

In an effort to “defend” the city’s dwindling resources, Lakewood Mayor Michael Summers is considering the services of a Statehouse lobbyist. 

Concerned with HB 601 and a pending state budget, the city could end up spending as much as $10,000 to hire a lobbyist, with cooperation from other neighboring communities.

“I don’t relish this,” Summers said. “The fact that we are at such odds with our state legislature is very discouraging. The stakes are so high that we may have no choice.”

Summers met with leaders of other inner-ring suburbs on Monday to see if the other communities would be interested.

At least a few of them were. 

If other communities — including Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights and Lyndhurst — joined the effort, they’d share the cost with Lakewood.

Summers said the estimated cost to Lakewood ranges from $5,000 to $10,000, but it would largely depend on how many other cities participate.

“In the end, it might not cost too much money, because we all have the same story,” Summers said. “If we spend $5,000 and we save $1.5 million, we’d consider that a pretty big win.” 

“It’s sort of a Catch 22,” he added. “If we don’t defend ourselves against the Ohio legislature, then we may end up paying more.”

Summers said the city is “very concerned” about House Bill 601.

Last month, Lakewood City Council passed a resolution stating opposition to the proposed state law that would “gut the home-rule guarantees of the Ohio Constitution by imposing a state-mandated tax scheme on local governments.”

“Under the guise of income tax uniformity, it fundamentally creates a pathway to state income tax collection,” Summers said. “Nobody is more motived to collect income taxes than we are. Having that control is very important to us.”

If HB 601 passes, he said that Lakewood “could lose a couple million dollars in revenue.”

Also troubling city officials is the approaching state budget.

Last year, the state budget paved the way for a 50 percent cut to the city’s Local Government Fund. In addition, the state eliminated the estate tax.

“I don’t mind losing, but I don’t like losing without taking a swing," Summers said.

If passed, the city’s 2013 budget would have some room to spend on “professional services” — which would include a lobbyist.

Council is set to vote on the 2013 budget at its Dec. 17 meeting.

Summers said even if he decides that the city should employ the services of a lobbyist, he’d first seek city council’s approval.

“We all understand that we can’t assume that someone is going to protect our interest,” he said. “It’s a township versus city mentality down there.” 

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