Ex-Gov. Gilligan, Creator Of Ohio State Income Tax, Dies

COLUMBUS, Ohio – Former Ohio Gov. and U.S. Rep. John J. Gilligan, a liberal Democrat whose creation of the state income tax was his most lasting accomplishment and also the undoing of his political career, died Monday. He was 92.

Gilligan’s death was confirmed by his caregiver, Frank Kennedy, who did not provide a cause of death.

Gilligan’s daughter Kathleen Sebelius, a former Kansas governor, in 2009 became Health and Human Services secretary under President Barack Obama.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich ordered flags lowered to half-staff until the day of Gilligan’s funeral. Kasich, a Republican, said he was saddened to hear of Gilligan’s death.

“He served with honor and distinction,” Kasich said in a statement.

Gilligan, a teacher, became the state’s 62nd governor in 1970, a year in which Republicans suffered from a loan scandal in the state treasurer’s office.

He inherited a school funding problem in which 24 districts had closed for lack of operating money and more were expected to follow suit.

Gilligan persuaded legislators to enact the state’s first corporate and personal income tax in 1971 to raise money for dealing with those and other government priorities.

During the tax battle, he closed state parks to save money. The move may have turned up heat on legislators, but it also caused a public uproar.

Gilligan also presided over creation of the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, passage of strip mine reclamation laws and division of the prison and mental health agencies into separate departments.

As he headed into a campaign for a second term, he claimed a 57 percent increase in state funding for primary and secondary education, a 60 percent boost for mental health, and hefty spending increases for treatment, education, and law enforcement programs to cut drug abuse.

But the income tax issue continued to dog him. An offhand remark at the Ohio State Fair was one of Gilligan’s most memorable.

When a reporter asked if the arriving Gilligan was going to shear a sheep on the fairgrounds, the governor said: “I shear taxpayers, not sheep.”