The Dayton Daily News reported that in comments to the Ohio Newspaper Association, Governor Kasich indicated that if the legislature doesn’t quickly pass the kind of collective bargaining rollbacks he wants, he’ll include them in his budget.

Kasich said his own bill would outlaw strikes and penalize those who do walk off the job by firing them or docking their pay. He also noted that he wants fact-finding reports produced during contract negotiations open to the public so taxpayers know the details.

Kasich specifically said that if he’s not satisfied with the progress on the Shannon Jones’ collective bargaining bill (which was actually not even introduced until yesterday), he’s going to incorporate his own platform of rollback in his proposed budget due by mid-March.

Note that by his comments, Kasich’s proposal may actually be  less radical than even SB 5.  Kasich didn’t reportedly ban the right for state employees to engage in collective bargaining or address some of the more radical aspects of Jones’ bill.  This may be an attempt at the conservative version of triangulation.

Regardless, including this in the context of the budget battle is an explosive thing for the Governor to do.  The budget has to pass and is already expected to be a difficult thing to swallow.  The reality is that the House Republicans can release up to nine of their more vulnerable members from supporting either the budget or Kasich’s collective bargaining reform.

The other interesting thing to note is that Kasich has embraced total ownership of the issue.  At lease while it was just SB 5, ownership of the issue was with Jones.  It didn’t inherently run to the Governor until he’s now threatened to make it part of the budget.

Which raising another question.  Why would Kasich feel the need with a margin of error of nine GOP members of the House to threaten to include collective bargaining in the State budget?  Again, the bill was just introduced yesterday and already had its first hearing in the Senate.  There’s no doubt that it’ll pass in some form  and become law.  So why the budget threat?

I think it’s because Kasich is afraid that the longer the debate goes, the weaker the final product will be.

Kasich came into office with little political capital except whatever partisan loyalty gets you in Columbus (ask Gov. Taft).  He’s burning it up like a guy who doesn’t think he’s going to be in office six months from now.

Kasich political capital

Believe it or not, there are Republicans in the General Assembly (I’m looking at you State Sen. Jimmy Stewart (R-Athens) that are considered union-friendly who rely either on the support of labor or the lack of labor’s opposition to their campaigns for their political survival.  Ironically, even State Senator Shannon Jones (R-Springboro), the sponsor of SB 5, touted the endorsement of the Ohio F.O.P. in her most recent campaign.

John Kasich doesn’t threaten to incorporate the collective bargaining issue into the budget fight for no reason.  Maybe he’s an impatient guy (even though he spent years laying the groundwork for him to become Governor).  Maybe he’s that reactionary to any sign of opposition.  Or maybe he’s got a bunch of GOP legislators losing their freaking minds over the sight of over 800 folks packing the Capitol Building in protest.

Regardless, it would seem to be an odd and expectedly unnecessary power play for Kasich to make.  There is little doubt that left out of the budget, the GOP will likely pass some form of collective bargaining roll back… unless that assumption, made by most, is actually not true.

The only upside I see in this is yet another attempt by Kasich to make a major policy change with the hopes that if it’s within the context of the budget or an appropriation, it can’t been made subject to a repeal by referendum.  Except, of course, it could still be repealed by an initiative petition instead.   Also, unless, I misread the Ohio Supreme Court precedent, I think such changes is severable from the budget enough to be challenged by referendum.  (Thanks, LetOhioVote.org!)

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