The Dayton Daily News reports that the State ended its fiscal year last year with a $139 million surplus.  The State also cut spending around half a billion less than what was budgeted.

Somewhere, John Kasich is kicking something.

[Update:]  Jon Keeling likes to complain that Strickland supporters and the campaign refuses to talk about Strickland’s record.  However, I’ve pointed out that for the last four years, Governor Strickland has worked in  a bipartisan fashion to responsibly cut spending to keep the budget in balance, cut taxes in a reasonable manner, all while investing in the most important areas of Ohio’s economy: transportation, energy, and education.

This is Strickland’s record on the budget, and it is undeniable.  And yet, Keeling repeatedly calls it a failure.

So I asked him, given that Kasich’s “no tax hike pledge” and income and estate repeals makes Ohio budget situation next year worse, and Kasich has offered no ideas on how he’d balance the budget, “what would John Kasich do any differently than Ted Strickland?”  Would he not work in a bipartisan fashion?  Would he not make changes throughout the year to make sure the budget stays in balance?   If Ted Strickland’s record is a failure, what is John Kasich going to do differently that defines success?

Keeling shut down entirely.  He had no response.

Budgets are more than just incomes and expenditures on a balance sheet.  They are debates about opportunity costs.  Is it better for Ohio’s economy to repeal the income tax if it means we have to drastically cut funding for schools, colleges, law enforcement, prisons, state parks, infrastructure maintenance and construction?  This is the debate Kasich and his mouthpiece Keeling wish to avoid.  The reason they haven’t announced a plan is that they honestly can’t figure out a way to pay for it, and they sure as heck don’t want voters to be able to think what they’ll be asked to sacrifice in the name of Kasich’s reckless tax plans.

John Kasich just wants to call Strickland a failure, hope people who are upset about this economy agree and vote for him without ever actually showing that he’d do any better.

But Kasich would likely do worse.  Kasich has promised to phase out Ohio’s income tax and estate taxes without raising taxes elsewhere.  That means that, by default, Kasich’s plans put Ohio into an even worse position, not better.  And yet, Kasich has offered no explanation of how he’d balance the budget as he’d be constitutionally required to do.

Ted Strickland needs to use this occasion and tell the people Ohio that he realizes that he has had to make unpopular choices to keep our budget balanced, but he’s done what he can to make our business climate more attractive for job growth by lowering taxes while still investing in our most important economic needs. 

He can then contrast that to Kasich who wants to gamble half of Ohio’s budget on his tax plan, even though he has no plan on how to pay for it… nor what Ohio can do if we find out after the ten years or more it will take to implement that it didn’t work.

Ted Strickland’s record shows that he will make the hard choices necessary to balance our budget while protecting our investment in that which matters most.  That record is enough to show that Strickland will address any future budget difficulties in a bipartisan, responsible manner.

On the other hand, John Kasich has already demonstrated that he acts in a rash, myopic ideological manner with very little thought to the fiscal consequences of his plans.  If his Congressional record is any indication, Kasich will call on those who have been harmed the most by this Lehman Brothers recession to bear the most burden to pay for his plans.  While the richest Ohioans are promised a tax-free haven in Ohio, he’ll build his millionaire utopia on top of the backs of the middle class and the working poor who will have less law enforcement, worse schools, and less assistance during the next economic downturn.

Again, if John Kasich calls Ted Strickland’s handling of the budget with this surplus a “failure,” then what does John Kasich promise to do differently that defines success?

The news of today’s surplus might be the tipping point in the Governor’s race.  That is, if the Strickland campaign seizes it as an opportunity to contrast the candidate’s fiscal records.