Ohio law required that Governor Kasich submit to the General Assembly his budget by March 15th, 2011.  Technically, Kasich complied with the law in the narrowest sense of the term.  But Kasich’s budget is still largely a mystery to most seasoned budget watchers for one simple reason.

Last Tuesday, Kasich introduced four volumes of his “Blue Book” called:

  • The Executive Budget
  • The Tax Expenditure Report
  • The Budget Summary
  • The “Savings” Book

The first three is what is actually required by State law.  The “Savings” Book is nothing but Administration propaganda to highlight certain cuts in spending.  For over a week, the Administration has been promising a fifth book titled The Reforms Book would be “coming soon.”  It, too, is not required by law but is just a self-promotional tool for Kasich to highlight an area of his budget he wishes to promote.

However, a legislature cannot vote up or down a book.  Legislatures pass bills, not books created by the Executive Branch with an eye towards political marketing.  At some point the Blue Books that make up Kasich’s budget must be made into legislative language.  The House even has a placeholder bill ready for it, HB 153.  One week later, and we still only have a placeholder bill, and no legislative language.  This is highly unusual if not out right unprecedented.  Although the legislative language for Strickland’s first budget was delayed, it was not delayed this long.  Furthermore, Kasich’s budget director has held the post before.  He, unlike Strickland, has no excuse for this delay.

And this isn’t just a technicality.  It’s a substantive problem.  Think of the Blue Books as being the “concept car” of a budget.  It’s where design and marketing take precedence over practicality and engineering.  The legislative drafting is when the budget really exists as a functioning document and where its claims can be tested objectively.

ConceptCars

You know how they say the “devil is in the details?”  Well, we’ve only been able to examine Kasich’s budget based on the promotional materials he’s put out.  Many of these issues and others we may not yet have realized can be determined by looking at the statutory language.  For example, Kasich’s budget doesn’t identify any revenues for leasing the turnpike.  Therefore, many observers concluded that Kasich must have abandoned the idea.  But as today’s Dispatch indicates, Kasich apparently believes his budget will give him the authority to lease the Turnpike. 

Since you can’t really find it in his Blue Books, Kasich must be assuming that it’ll be in the statutory language.  Ordinarily by now, we’d know what that language is, what conditions, if any, the budget places on Kasich’s authority to enter the State into a lease that exceeds his term, but creates one-time money during his budget, and what process must Kasich use to attempt to lease it out.  None of these questions are answered because we don’t have the statutory language.

Take Kasich’s cuts in K-12 education.  By now, we should have from the Administration a document that gives a school district by school district projection of the fiscal impact of the budget.  We don’t.

We don’t even have the errata sheet for the budget documents Kasich has released.  It, too, is “Coming Soon!”

We’ve had a week of House Finance Committee hearings on a budget in which the Committee has yet to get any statutory language to examine.  It’s left budget watchers like the Ohio School Boards Association scrambling to explain to school districts what Kasich’s budget does, but only in tentative, broad strokes because, again, the information usually available by now still isn’t, as our own Budget Watch site recently reported.

Maybe it’s paranoia, but what concerns me about this is that the Kasich Administration seems focused on doing two things: 1) delaying the release of the statutory language of the budget and their own school district by district projections; and 2) working the Ohio media to create a conventional wisdom that Kasich’s budget is reasonable and a good thing for Ohio.  It has all the marking of a shady car dealer who doesn’t want you to know what he’s really selling you.

Sadly, while all of Ohio’s newspapers have written very qualified, mixed praise for Kasich’s budget, it’s still been premature.  And it is evidence that there are some people who will advocate others to buy an untested concept car without ever checking under the hood to see if it even has an engine.

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  • legal beagle

    It sounds like the Car Fax Commercial where the dealer doesn’t want to give up the car fax report

  • stryx

    See, he has to go talk to the finance manager first.

    Why do used-car salesman analogies seem to work so well for Mad King John?

  • Yes! Let’s see the BudgetFax!

  • this seems familiar…

    There does seem to be a lot of smoke and mirrors involved here (a tactic which Kasich uses consistently). I get the feeling he will delay, delay, delay on the language so he can push through his budget in a “time crunch” without giving anyone a chance to read and analyze it before it is put into practice. Unfortunately for the state of Ohio, we have voted enough GOP members into office who will gladly vote without looking to let him get away with it.

  • CDR Jan

    Is anyone surprised that King John has complied with state law in only the narrowest technical sense?

    Laws don’t apply to King John and his Wall Street brahmin buds, only to the little people.

    I suspect that legislative language for the budget won’t be available until mid-John, forcing a quick, uninformed vote by the General Assembly.

  • Annekarima

    You actually think someone wants to purchase something at Ohio’s garage sale?

  • I’m not as paranoid as you are – I think that they’re probably having a very hard time coming up with statutory language that accomplishes what they’ve already promised. There are constitutional issues that come up regarding things like leasing the turnpike, there are simple sounding promises which are actually fiendishly complicated (before you can make faculty teach more classes, you have to define “teach” and “classes,” which is not as easy as you might think), etc. etc.

    He said he could use rail money for other projects. He actually couldn’t. He thought he could put a California voter on his cabinet. He couldn’t. He said he could dismantle Ted’s education reform without losing Race To The Top money… I’m guessing that there are proposals in the blue book that he assumed he could just do, but he can’t.

    In fact, that’s the most likely reason that they tried to bar recording of the initial presentation. They knew that he was likely going to say something that would turn out to not be true.

  • Anonymous

    “..He thought he could put a California voter on his cabinet. He couldn’t….”

    According to the Dispatch (http://blog.dispatch.com/dailybriefing/2011/03/notes_from_kasichs_osu_visit_1.shtml), following Kasich’s visit to Ohio State, King John is bringing in more outsiders and this time they are arriving “…from Wyoming, California, Virginia, and New York…”

  • It’s my understanding that the Race To The Top money wasn’t lost, but I don’t have confirmation of it.

  • stryx

    From the Dispatch link above:

    “Kasich says there are 63,000 job vacancies in Ohio, many of them unfilled because they require specific skill sets not taught at state institutions.”

    Once again John, [citation needed]

  • Guest

    I thought that is what he learned from rotten Lehman Brothers. How to buy stuff for too much money then sell for pennies on the dollar? If not then he is representing the people who are buying and they will get a good deal buying low and getting us to pay for the upkeep. I wonder what his fee will be? A cushy corporate boardship in addition to his real job on “Fixed News” which is lying and selling the lies of the radical TGOP. He is evil and doesn’t work for us. Get it, now people. People wanted less government and here it comes…100% of nothing covered with smoke and mirrors. Isn’t that better now? NO, then don’t vote for R’s. Sorry you didn’t vote well so am I and we are going to be sorry for at least 4 years because we are stuck with its rotten behind aka Ebenezer 2.0.

    Don’t forget the voter disenfranchisement bill that is coming as well as the terrible draconian anti-abortion bill.

    I see the jobs just exploding because of those two issues being passed by the legislature.

  • Anonymous

    When’s mid-John?

  • CDR Jan

    OOPS! My fingers have gotten used to typing ‘John’.

    That should be mid-June. 😉

  • The money is in the blue book and ODE appears to be going full steam ahead. What Modern reported months ago was that the application would be reviewed if there were substantive changes to the proposal, and in the absence of the budget language, I’m not sure there’s been anything to review yet. Regardless, nobody wants to lose this money, so if everything’s fine and dandy, I’m good with that.

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