What, you didn’t think this was just a one-day story, did you?

John Kasich yesterday was asked about our exclusive story on significant raises in high-level Kasich staffers that is radically higher than what their Strickland contemporaries make.

Kasich at first denied that these staffers were going to make more than their Strickland compatriots, and then defended the fact that some were.  Kasich then claimed that his gubernatorial staff would have a smaller payroll “than the current payroll” for the Strickland Administration.

We’ll be detailing the ins and outs of Kasich’s staff budget over the remaining days, but we wanted to give you (and the Ohio media) a road map as to this story that takes away some of the subterfuge that Kasich is already engaging in.

First, here are some general facts to keep in mind:

  • The average proposed salary of Governor Kasich’s staff is higher than what Governor Strickland’s staff is when you compare them budget to budget.
  • The size of Governor Strickland’s staff in 2010 is larger than what it was at the same point as now in 2007.
  • Only 46% of the positions Kasich expects to fill in his staff (including staff for the Lt. Gov and First Lady) have been filled.  Those positions already consume over 53% of his proposed staff budget.  If Kasich’s remaining hires force him to pay more than he originally budgeted (not an unrealistic assumption given that his staff hiring so far,) then any claim that his budget is coming below Gov. Strickland’s current budget goes out the window.
  • All indications are that Kasich is expected to cut funding for education somewhere between 10% to 20%, according to his allies in the Statehouse.  Yet, his own staff budget makes no such sacrifice.   This much we already know.

A new Administration always has to make adjustments to its staffing as time goes on and they start to get a feel for the real demands and priorities of the Administration.  This has always resulted in expanding staffs.  A new Administration always starts with a smaller staff budget that grows over time because you really have no idea what your facing every day until you’re on the job.

The point is that Kasich starts out with a false comparison.  Every Administration finds out over time that they require more staff than they first estimated.  Second, with so many positions yet to be filled, it’s unrealistic to expect that these positions will come in on budget for the salaries listed.  Inherently, the people he hires may expect higher pay than Kasich is estimating.  After, his limited staff hiring shows him going well above what Strickland is currently budgeting.  His claim of “savings” comes mostly from the fact that over half of his staff has yet to be hired so their true salaries haven’t been established yet.

Smoke and Mirrors

But yes, Kasich’s budget does technically show a lower dollar figure right now than Strickland’s current budget, but not his 2007 staff budget.  But that’s not the whole story.  As Joseph pointed out, one of the ways Kasich is going to be able to show the media such a budget that does this is that he’s assuming that he can pay for his higher top salaries by hiring lower staff level positions at 21% less than what they currently pay in the Strickland Administration.

If that budgetary assumption doesn’t pan out (as budgetary assumptions rarely do so precisely), then Kasich’s claims about his staff budget coming under Strickland’s despite Kasich’s higher top-end salaries evaporates entirely.   Another way Kasich can do it is by shifting what was a staff position budgeted with the Governor’s office and shift it to another agency.

Another problem is that you’re comparing the final salaries with some folks who have been on the job for four years to the starting salaries to less experienced folks.  After all, do you honestly think that these salaries are going to be static?

And a third way Kasich can, and is doing it, is by submitting an initial budget that has insufficient number of positions for the demands of certain functions of the office. 

And that’s what we’ll be detailing in future posts.  For example, in my next post, I’ll be addressing Governor-elect Kasich’s claim that this inflated salaries were necessary for him to attract the staff he’s gotten…

[UPDATE:]  No sooner did I post this do I see that the Plain Dealer has this update to their salary story from yesterday:

Nichols said afterward that Kasich meant that overall salary budgets for his senior staff and cabinet could be less than Strickland’s.

Note: “could” be less.  Hedge much?

Stay tuned!

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