Before John Kasich was even sworn in as Governor he was already attempting to hide as much information as possible from the press and the public.

He refused to release his tax statements during the campaign, he refused to answer questions from reporters or respond to candidate questionnaires, he refused to release the resumes from his private website and refused to let reporters attend his swearing in ceremony and the inaugural ball.

That all happened BEFORE HIS FIRST DAY ON THE JOB. And it’s only gotten worse since then.

So when the Dispatch published an article on Saturday with the headline “Senate Bill 5 saves $1.3B, study says” I just shook my head and rolled my eyes.

A secret report supporting Senate Bill 5 suddenly materializes four days before SB5 is supposed to be voted out of committee? And no one but Jim Siegel and Joe Hallett of the Dispatch has ever seen the report? Why does this not surprise me in the least?

I understand how the system works and I really can’t fault Siegel and Hallett. If you want access to the current administration – which they clearly have – then you play nice and take what they give when they give it. (For the record: the Dispatch Editorial Board does NOT get the same pass)

It’s a scoop and, had I been in their shoes, I probably would have written about it as well. But that doesn’t make the information in the report true. Actually, the fact that Kasich only released the information to the paper that has been his strongest (and often only) supporter leads me to believe that the analysis is deeply flawed and highly biased. Why else – given the protests and other constant debate over the bill – wouldn’t you release it to the public at large weeks ago?

Jim’s article paraphrases the report, which claims to have been put out by the Office of Collective Bargaining but sounds more like a summary of something I’ve read a thousand times on the Buckeye Institute’s website:

State and local governments would have saved an estimated $1.3 billion in 2010 on health insurance and automatic pay increases if the limits imposed by Senate Bill5 were in effect…

The cost analysis focused on three provisions in the bill: that workers must pay at least 20 percent of the cost of their health insurance, and the elimination of automatic step and longevity pay increases currently built into most contracts.

The analysis estimates the state would have saved $217 million last year, while the savings for schools and local governments would have topped $1.1 billion.

Putting aside the fact that none of the contracts are up until 2012 and it’s absolutely impossible for any of this to have happened last/this year, the information in the Dispatch fails to answer even the most basic questions that NEED to be asked before this report should be taken the least bit seriously and before this bill receives any serious consideration by the Senate.

Like that $217M number? That sounds very similar to the nearly $200M in savings Strickland achieved during his term by working WITH the unions to implement pay freezes and “cost-savings days”. How is Kasich’s strategy of totally screwing the unions better than actually sitting down and working together with the unions?

And what about the state workers who don’t collectively bargain? There are many state employees who are exempt from collective bargaining, are these employees included in those numbers? If so, the estimates are much higher than they should be.

Does the report address these things?

Fucked if I know. I’ve never seen it. And it sounds like most of the people who SHOULD have seen it haven’t either.

It’s only three days (and counting) until the committee votes on SB5 and it’s been over 24 hours since this “analysis” was first reported in the Dispatch. No other paper has written about it. No counter analysis has been provided. No details about the analysis have been released. Right now all we have is a number and a shit load of spin coming from the Governor’s supporters on Twitter and the latest “News” posted on the Governor’s official website which, I shit you not, links to the Dispatch article that quotes the secret report that Kasich leaked to them!

Leave it to John Kasich to make up his own “news”. It’s not the first time.

I’m really not sure what’s worse: having the governor’s office post a link to a NewsMax article or email out a link to a Bill O’Reilly interview while calling them both “news”? or linking to a Dispatch article that quotes a secret study your office wrote and exclusively leaked to the Dispatch and then having the over-paid special assistant to the governor Jai Chabria tweet it from his personal account the next morning?

For all we know the actual report is a one page press release put together by Matt Mayer of the Buckeye Institute. And, now that I mention it, it seems pretty damn likely that’s all the report is.

Hell, for all we know, Kasich made a deal with the Dispatch: you write a scathing editorial about Ted Strickland on Friday and I’ll give you my secret analysis on Saturday. Right now I’m not ruling out anything.

I’ve filed my public records request for a copy of the document and, hopefully, we’ll be able to provide you an in-depth analysis of the report’s content before SB5 goes up for a vote in committee on Tuesday.

But given the Kasich administration’s past level of responsiveness on these things – and knowing their opinion of government transparency and openness – I wouldn’t hold my breath.

 

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