Here’s the roundup of editorials on yesterday’s State of the State address:
GOV. Ted Strickland’s State of the State address yesterday was long on initiatives that may reap long-term benefits in jobs and economic growth, but short on what many of the state’s nearly 675,000 unemployed residents hoped to hear: when there will be work for them. That’s as good as could be expected under the circumstances.
Mr. Strickland can’t spend money the state doesn’t have. Faced with massive cuts in many areas of state spending, the governor was honest about his commitment to maintain and even improve Ohio’s schools. In the final analysis, he didn’t create Ohio’s economic problems and there’s little he could have done about them in the face of a national and global economic meltdown.
Ohioans should remember why they elected Democrats in 2006. Republicans may justly claim credit for the highly successful Third Frontier program, but 16 uninterrupted years of Republican control – including eight years of Mr. Taft – helped leave Ohio largely unprepared for the fundamental economic changes that have been occurring.
So Governor Strickland offered what he could: belief that there is a light at the end of this recession. That’s a meager meal for Ohioans hungry for jobs, but it’s more sustaining than empty rhetoric.
The governor has a stronger record than his critics contend. The state’s universities and colleges needed an advocate, and Strickland has filled the role, aided by Eric Fingerhut, the most able chancellor of the Board of Regents. They have joined Republicans and Democrats in the legislature in slowing tuition increases and routing new resources to higher education. The governor wasn’t the first to embrace more robust standards for alternative and renewable energy initiatives. He has since become a determined and enthusiastic advocate.
Strickland famously contended that he would fail as governor if he did not repair the way the state pays for public schools. He has delivered a promising evidence-based concept. Unfortunately, implementation will take place during the next decade or more, sufficient funding much in doubt, the schools heavily reliant for now on federal stimulus money at the critical margins.
The state has scrambled to make ends meet, the most recent episode involving an $851 million gap. As a result, the governor stayed away from ambitious new programs. What he unveiled was a collection of smaller initiatives, mostly designed to reinforce current efforts to fuel a new economy in Ohio and, more specifically, to deal with the shortage of credit, even solid companies finding capital scarce.
Not surprisingly, the governor made a necessary pitch for extending the Third Frontier project at a funding level in tune with its success and potential. Regrettably, Senate Republicans are having trouble grasping the achievement set in motion by Bob Taft, one of their own. Their reluctance reflects the looming campaign season, and provided a handy foil for a governor who chose to open his run for re-election with a hopeful argument about the state of the state.
Strickland’s annual address made clear that he will play offense, not defense, against Republican challenger John Kasich.
Strickland also told the Republican-run Senate and the Democrat-run House that Ohio has 5,021 fewer state employees than when he took office in January 2007, and that the state now has “fewer state employees than at any time since Ronald Reagan was in the White House.” On spending and taxes, his implicit challenge to Kasich was, “Bring it on!”
Strickland proposed a raft of creative ideas that won’t break the bank but could improve Ohio’s jobs picture. Good politics? Sure. Talking up jobs, in good times and in bad, is what Ohio governors do.
All in all, Strickland tried gamely to gloss over the hard times with a positive speech. Maybe that’s not a bad thing in a state suffering almost as much from a crisis of confidence as it is from a crisis in the economy. There is something to be said for positive leadership.
While his speech included no sweeping proposals, such as last year’s plan to overhaul school funding, he did unveil a laundry list of smaller-scale development and education initiatives aimed at creating jobs and improving the work force. While the impact of these is uncertain, Strickland deserves credit for pushing to put a renewal of the Third Frontier tech-development initiative before voters in May. Investing anew in an approach that has generated 48,000 jobs and $6.6 billion in economic activity is a statement of confidence in Ohio’s future.
Ohio needs leaders concerned not with scoring points against political opponents but with marshaling all the state’s talent and creativity to create opportunities for everyone.
The governor outlined an approach that was low on partisanship and ideology. That offers hope of some progress in the legislature.
And the mere fact that there?s a plan, a direction, is a good thing. It beats a sense that everybody is flailing aimlessly. But whether it?s enough of a plan is a debate yet to be had.
Strickland, giving his fourth State of the State address, also talked about some of the accomplishments of his administration, including expanding the Homestead Property Tax Exemption and cutting taxes to the point that Ohio now has the lowest business taxes in the Midwest.
He also took credit for the electricity reform bill that short circuited the impending deregulation that would have increased rates. Ohioans now pay 10 percent less for electricity than the national average.
And while Strickland announced a number of initiatives to encourage the creation of jobs in the private sector, he was able to say that ?today Ohio has 5,021 fewer state employees than when I took office. That?s fewer state employees than at any time since Ronald Reagan was in the White House.? That?s a reduction that runs counter to the conventional wisdom that all government ever does is grow.
What we’re seeing in the coverage across the State was that the Governor offered a frank and honest assessment of the situation, expressed a pragmatic and realistic approach to deal with it in a positive, optimistic manner.? Plus, we’re seeing the first real reporting on exactly what Governor Strickland has done since he was elected in 2006.
I think if I had written down what objectives, politically, this speech needed to achieve, Governor Strickland’s State of the State address yesterday hit just about every one of them.
Ohioans want a pragmatic leader, one who doesn’t talk about the State being in a hopeless “death spiral,” but acknowledges that we have big problems that are difficult to resolve given the State’s limited resources.? But at the end of the day, we want a leader who is realistic about our problems, but optimistic of our future.? Strickland hit that.? John Kasich is all negative all the time.? He doesn’t even think he can fix Ohio’s economy this decade, and even then, his plan would require either massive tax increases, new taxes, or see our state budget go bust.
Bipartisan, optimistic pragmatism versus nay-saying, pessimistic ideological demagoguery.? I like our odds.