Given that the House and Senate are safely controlled by his Republican brethren, it’s unsurprising that Governor Kasich vetoed only seven items in the budget. But it’s curious that a facility in Twinsburg that serves developmentally disabled kids and adults wound up in the Governor’s crosshairs.

Legislators set aside $62,500 in each fiscal year for the Hattie Larlham Home out of state Medicaid program funds; the Home offers work opportunities for people with disabilities, as well as a creative arts program and autism preschool. The reason Kasich gave for the veto was that the earmark treated one individual facility differently than others and prevented the administration from overseeing how Medicaid funds are spent.

But the amount was $62,500 out of $4.3 BILLION in State Medicaid funds spent in a single year. It’s a rounding error, and certainly not large enough to impact any new savings or reform programs the administration has planned.

What about the argument that the earmark singles out one facility and treats it differently? Well, duh, that’s how earmarks work. Hattie Larlham is not unique in this budget; witness the following earmarks the Governor approved:

  • Cincinatti Museum Center – $195,285 in each fiscal year
  • Western Reserve Historical Society – $195,285 in each fiscal year
  • National Afro-American Museum – $414,798 in each fiscal year

Those examples aside, this budget was commendably short on earmarks. But the question is: if the Governor objected strongly to this one, the House and Senate leadership would presumably have taken it out in Conference. They went along with Kasich on practically everything else. So did he not let his objections known in the back room so that he could make a public show of vetoing it? And if so, why did Hattie Larlham rise to this level?

Hattie Larlham is represented by a lobbyist named Todd Bergdoll. Berdoll is significant because he’s also the chief lobbyist for Ohio’s nursing homes, a group that stood alone in running television ads to fight the Governor’s budget cuts. In this case, they ran an incredibly nasty attack ad accusing the Governor of all but pulling the plug on old people. To make matters worse, Bergdoll had the nerve to support Kasich’s opponent in the 2010 election. It’s not like he’s a democrat – he gave to President Niehaus and Speaker Batchelder, but apparently liked Strickland’s prospects better than Kasich’s back in 2009.

So is it payback? If it is, it’s incredibly petty. The Governor’s deep cuts to nursing homes were preserved in the final budget, so they (and Bergdoll) were already roundly punished. For Hattie Larlham to get the veto treatment seems to represent the Governor kicking Bergdoll in the teeth while he’s already lying bleeding on the curb.

Kasich warned us you’re either on the bus or the bus is going to run you over. And it appears Todd Bergdoll is the budget’s first known repeat victim. Congrats Todd! You can make amends here. And sorry to those developmentally disabled kids of Twinsburg. Next time you should make sure you have the right lobbyist.

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