Whether the government calls the money it takes out of our pockets "taxes" or "fees," the net effect is the same: We have less money to spend and government continues to grow.
We are on record in support of Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland's plan to balance the state's budget without tax increases. We suspect we are not alone in wondering whether we - and millions of Ohioans - have been "had," however.
It seems that part of the governor's budget proposal is to collect new fees from hospitals. Estimates of the amount of revenue involved range from $127 million to $411 million a year.
That's a lot of money - and it will come out of the pockets of Ohioans. Hospitals, like other businesses, pass higher operating costs on to consumers. This situation will be no different.
Strickland's proposal involves the state-federal Medicaid program, which provides health care for low-income and disabled Ohioans. His idea is that money collected from the new fees would be used to cover part of the state's share of Medicaid funding. In return for paying the fees, hospitals would be given higher state reimbursements for treating Medicaid patients.
But it has been pointed out that the higher reimbursements will not offset the entire amount of increased fees. The difference may be in the $411 million range, according to a published report.
Much of that cost will be borne by middle-income Ohioans, in the forms of higher charges for health care treatment and, perhaps, for insurance.
A new tax by any other name still is a burden on Buckeye State residents. Strickland and legislators seem to be counting on state residents not to recognize that. We think Ohioans are sharper than that - and ought to make the governor and lawmakers aware that they don't like the idea of back-door taxation.