In today’s Dispatch, under the intentionally inflammatory headline “Unions Get Revenge…” we get a hint of next year’s anti-union rhetoric:
“But amidst all of the concessions and hat-in-hand rhetoric, there was a hint of defiance. Kasich, who opened by congratulating the labor coalition, said local governments should not expect a state bailout to manage their costs.
‘There is no bailout because frankly, there’s no money,’ Kasich said.”
Kasich’s year-long attack against public employees was two-pronged: Make them vulnerable, and strip away their defenses. Last night, not only did he fail to render unions defenseless, he helped bring about the machinery for a credible defense. But on the first part, he scored a clear victory- he gutted local governments and the voters didn’t stop it.
Kasich eliminated the estate tax, and slashed the
Tangible Personal Property Tax (sources disagree on the TPPT, but the larger point does not depend on that – see both stricken link and comments below) which were significant portions of the overall revenue for many municipalities and school districts. He made general cuts to state dollars distributed to local communities across the board. We’ve covered extensively the degree to which Kasich has increased spending, decreased revenue, and made the resulting budget balance by putting the onus on local governments, who would have to drastically cut services or raise taxes as a result. Kasich’s response, beyond simply denying reality, is that he had given local governments the tools to make up the shortfall through the passage of SB5. To be clear from the outset: had Issue 2 not been defeated, local governments would still face immediate and desperate shortfalls that would not have been impacted immediately by bargaining reform. Furthermore, the actual savings available to local communities were obscenely exaggerated, and many communities would not have seen any potential savings whatsoever. But we’ll get back to that.
Across the state, voters were faced with “Kasich Levies,” tax increase requests necessitated by the governor’s budget. These were levies that overwhelmingly sought to replace lost state revenue in order to maintain the same level of basic services, giving voters the choice between significant tax hikes during a recession or loss of such staples of community life as an adequate police force, Friday night high school football, plowed winter streets, etc. These are tough choices, and there will be widespread unhappiness in the months to come regardless of the results. If the results across Franklin County, for example, are any indication, there will be layoffs of public employees, and Kasich will tell us that those laid off have nobody to blame but themselves. In Franklin County, there were 18 separate tax issues on the ballot. Seven of them asked for a renewal or a replacement of an existing tax at an equal or lower rate. All seven of these issues passed. People understand that they need to pay for local services. Eleven of the issues involved additional taxes or increases in existing taxes. 3 of those 11 passed, 7 failed, and one remains too close to call. Overwhelmingly, voters did not think that they should have to pay more money for existing services. Kasich actively encouraged voters to take this stance.
As a result, Dublin City Schools plans on reducing their workforce by 100 employees. Westerville City Schools plans 175 teacher layoffs alone, and elimination of all extracurricular activities, including football. Reynoldsburg has proposed laying off four police officers, about 10% of the force. The few communities that did attempt to preserve the character of their local communities did so at quite a cost. In Bexley, where the city lost 25% of its revenue with the elimination of the estate tax even before the 50% cut of direct funding from the state, voters chose to effectively wipe out the last four years of state income tax cuts in order to shift the tax burden from the dead to the living. They did this because continuing the five year tradition of cutting spending by about 10% year after year, including negotiated concessions from FOP and AFSCME, would not come close to providing for a balanced budget that provides basic services to residents.
Kasich forced local communities to come up with new revenue or drastically cut costs. He then warned them not to come up with new revenue, and then attempted to make cutting costs at the expense of public employee unions the path of least resistance for communities. The sad truth is, however, that there was very little savings to be extracted from public employee contracts in the first place, most of those savings are already being achieved through current collective bargaining law, and increased taxes and spending cuts would have been necessary regardless. So now, although public employees have scored a high profile victory against Kasich, and public employees may not be the lowest hanging fruit, (too) many will still lose their jobs. Schools and communities will not be able to balance their budgets, and everyone will suffer as a result.
Whose fault is it that your income taxes are going up and the quality of life in our communities is being diminished? If you’re Occupy Wall Street, you might say it’s the big banks that pushed us into an economic crisis and recession. If you’re an Ohio citizen paying attention, you’d have to say that a significant amount of blame belongs to John Kasich and a Republican legislature that didn’t have the guts to balance their own budget. If you’re John Kasich, however, you’ll say it’s the pesky public employee unions and the Ohio voters they hoodwinked. And you’ll say it again, and again, and again. Things in Ohio are going to get worse before they get better thanks to John Kasich and his Robs Budget. When they do, he and folks like Shannon Jones will be ready to dodge accountability with a new smear campaign. He may have been forced into a tactical retreat today, but he’s already laying groundwork for the next battle. Be prepared.
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