A ruling by the Supreme Court of Ohio to put the issue of video slot machines at horse racing tracks to a statewide voter referendum caused a stir during a Sept. 21 meeting of the Union County Commissioners.

A ruling by the Supreme Court of Ohio to put the issue of video slot machines at horse racing tracks to a statewide voter referendum caused a stir during a Sept. 21 meeting of the Union County Commissioners.

"Well, that shoots the budget to hell," said Commissioner Gary Lee as he shared the breaking news with his fellow commissioners.

Gov. Ted Strickland planned to place up to 17,500 video slot machines at Ohio horse racing tracks as a way to generate nearly $1-billion for the state budget.

The Supreme Court said in a 6-1 vote that the state must accept the initial summary petitions by a group that wants to put the issue on the ballot.

It will require 241,366 valid voter signatures to get on the Nov. 3 ballot.

Strickland argued up to the point of the decision that the issue was not subject to a referendum. He may choose to exert his stance with an executive order.

The court further put the slots plan on hold for 90 days to allow the opposition group to pursue the referendum process.

"We are not unmindful of the effect our decision may have on the state budget, nor of the commendable efforts of the members of the executive and legislative branches of the state government to fulfill their constitutional duties to balance the budget in Ohio," read the court's majority opinion. "However, our own constitutional duty is to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Ohio Constitution irrespective of their effect on the state's current financial conditions."

The news of the potential referendum began circulating around the county building before 10 a.m. on the same date of the court's decision.

Auditor Mary Snider shared the opinion with Clerk Rebecca Roush who passed it on to the commissioners.

"It's huge," Lee said.

When Commissioner Tom McCarthy addressed a group of social service providers during a training session on Sept. 22 he raised the issue.

"I think we all know the state is in financial difficulty," he said.

McCarthy then explained to the group that the county received word of the Supreme Court decision regarding the video slot machines and potential for a referendum.

"We can take different sides on that politically, but the fiscal impact of that is another $800-million, a billion-dollar hole in the social fabric in our state," said McCarthy. "What that means locally, we don't know. But we do know this, times are tough. The volumes coming through our doors are up, at the same time resources are down."

The decision, in the opinion of the commissioners, means further state cuts which will stream down to the local governments which will, in turn, affect services and programs.