We knew that this State budget was going to be such a big story that we jumped at the opportunity to form our sibling site, Ohio Budget Watch, which is likely to go on a hiatus until the next budget cycle. Kasich’s budget didn’t disappoint. There were so many crazy proposals and changes, it’s hard to keep up with them all.
Obviously, if you’re interested in doing your own comparison, the most comprehensive document is the Legislative Service Commission’s “Comparison Document” that breaks it down by agency what the differences has been between the Governor’s initial proposal, the House version, the Senate version, and now House-Senate conference committee version, which passed the Ohio Senate today at a 22-11 vote (Sen. Scott Oeslager was the sole Republican to break party ranks in the budget. He said he felt that the merit pay provision still mirrored SB 5 too much, and for consistency sake, he had to vote against the budget just as he did SB 5.) Whereas Governor Strickland’s first budget passed with only one no vote, John Kasich has the pleasure of having his first budget pass over bipartisan opposition.
We cannot possible cover every topic or change, and the Ohio newspapers have covered some of the major ones such as the final version did not contain 2% pension cost shift, the permitting the sale of higher alcohol content beer, or the proposed cut to legislators’ salaries.
Here’s some of the changes the media didn’t pick up on:
Charter universities. Boy, we’ve read or seen virtually nothing about this idea since Kasich introduced it back in February. So does Kasich’s budget permit Ohio’s universities to become charter universities exempt from all sorts of collective bargaining rights, regulations, etc.? Yes, but see page 20. But the House, Senate, and the Conference Committee inserted language that stated that the Chancellor of the Board of Regents cannot designate any university or college as a charter university/college until the General Assembly passes legislation establishing a charter university designation process.
Tax cuts. In 2005, Governor Taft and the GOP-led legislature introduced massive tax breaks, but delayed their implementation until future budgets. The result was a massive, growing structural deficit that Governor Strickland had to address each budget. The phony $8 billion deficit Kasich is still disingenuously claiming his budget “solves” can be attributed to the Great Recession and the habit of the Ohio GOP passing tax cuts today, with kicking the can down the road on how to pay for them into the next budget when they actually take affect.
Much in the media has been made about the fact that the conference committee rushed into the report Kasich’s InvestOhio, Mark Kvamme’s latest hair-brained capital gains tax cut scheme that is similar to another half-baked idea that Kasich threw out a few weeks in March after he introduced his budget… the idea got less than rave reviews from the cuts intended beneficiaries.
But do you know what InvestOhio and the estate tax repeal have in common? Just like the 2005 tax reforms, it’s passed today, but doesn’t start to have a fiscal impact until the next budget. When Kasich suggests this budget removes Ohio from any structural deficit, he has to resort to the “magic revenue fairy” to claim that these tax cuts aren’t going to blow a hole in the next budget when they take affect. Promise the cut today, give the voters the bill tomorrow. That’s the Ohio GOP playbook on tax cuts.
The Senate version of the budget called for the creation of a legislative commission to examine Ohio’s $7 billion in targeted tax cuts commonly known as “tax expenditures.” The House-Senate conference committee, naturally, got rid of this provision.
Civil service changes. Except for some veteran-related provisions that were already rejected by the Senate, Governor Kasich’s changes to Ohio’s civil service protections remained largely intact.
Charter schools right to unused real property owned by public schools. As BudgetWatch noted in its clips, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported last week that the Senate’s version of the budget contained a provision that forced school districts to lease unused real property to top 50% performing school districts for $1. That provision lead school districts, like the Cincinnati Public School District, to create “specialty schools” they could dedicate to their property to avoid losing use of the property at an enormous waste. The House-Senate conference committee changes the provision and ties the lease to “fair market value.”
Turnpike privatization. The initial Kasich budget contained language that empowered Kasich’s OBM Director Tim Keen to privatize any government function. The House limited that to just the Ohio Turnpike. The conference committee, according to the Plain Dealer, limited even further mandating that the Administration cannot even solicit bids for the Turnpike until it receives further legislative approval.
Lottery privatization. It’s out. One reason BudgetWatch points out is that it was patently unconstitutional. So, it’s entirely possible that Kasich’s former aides turned uber-lobbyists convinced Mary Taylor to do a performance audit on the Ohio Lottery Commission to be the launching pad of an effort to push for privatization, only to find out a year later it’s entirely unconstitutional… Wow.
The Workers Compensation Council is history. Speaker Bill Batchelder’s pet project, that wasteful agency known as the Workers Compensation Council is officially history as the conference report kept the Senate’s repeal of the unstaffed agency that Kasich wanted to increase the funding.
Minimum wage changes. I haven’t been able to get solid confirmation, but it appears that the Senate’s changes to Ohio’s minimum wage laws were not removed from the House-Senate conference committee. For all the talk about budgetary maneuvers to frustrate voters’ will in the pending SB 5 referendum, it’s remarkable that not a single mainstream media outlet outside of GONGWER has even mentioned that the State budget may change Ohio’s minimum wage laws.
Yes, the Conference Report still contains the Senate’s ban on abortion services being provided at public hospitals. So if you’re a pro-lifer or a dying rich person, you have a lot to like in this budget. We’re still privatizing five prisons and offering the DYS facility in Scioto County for sale to private prisons. We’re still selling the State’s liquor profits to fund JobsOhio in a transaction that most think is a bad deal for the State of Ohio for the revenue stream we lose as a result.
But if you’re an average Ohioan concerned about Ohio’s economy, there’s not much to see here except one conservative special interest giveaway after another. You almost wonder how a “Every Ohioan gets a free gun” didn’t manage to get into the budget.
On Friday, Kasich plans to throw him a celebration over the non-existent achievements he delusionally believes his budget achieves. It does not, as Kasich claims, prevent Ohio from having a structural deficit. With over a $1 billion in one-time money followed by millions in tax cuts that have yet to be offset with spending cuts, the next Kasich budget is likely to have a structural deficit unless the economy is able to grow enough to replace that revenue.
It doesn’t resolve a $8 billion deficit, because it doesn’t exist. But will Kasich thank Ted Strickland on Friday since it was the economic recovery that began when he was Governor and the nearly $1 billion in surplus his budget leaft for Kasich that amounts to half of how the deficit was resolved?
Kasich’s budget is a fiscally vampire that gets its fiscal health by draining money from local governments and schools. It gives more money to predominately wealthy districts, while poorer districts bear the brunt of his budget in a perverse reverse Robin Hood. It asks the middle class and working poor for enormous sacrifice to help those who can already help themselves.
The question is outside of his lobbyists, special interest groups, aides, and conservative politicians, who will be celebrating Kasich’s budget with him on Friday? (Besides the OhioHouse Democratic caucus?) John Kasich can throw himself a party, but I won’t attend.
Someone has to work in order to pay the taxes necessary so Kasich can give corporate welfare queens like Diebold their government-subsidized housing.