Joe Vardon’s piece in the Dispatch on Sunday detailed the many reasons “real” conservatives in Ohio think Kasich hasn’t lived up to the promises he made to them during the campaign. Unfortunately for Kasich, the “statistics” his office provides as evidence of his spending “decreases”, when looked at in detail, do more damage than good to his conservative credentials.

I’ll give Vardon credit for one thing: he’s hunted down quotes from some of the most well-known conservatives in Ohio: Chris Littleton (anti-obamacare, “right to work”), Matt Mayer (former head of the Buckeye Institute) and Dave Zanotti of the Ohio Roundtable. He got all of them on the record questioning Kasich’s conservative credentials in different ways.

Free market advocates think JobsOhio is corporate socialism, with Kasich and Kvamme spending state money to help pick the winners. Anti-tax folks are all worked up over Kasich’s plan to increase taxes on oil and gas companies in order to “spread-the-wealth” around via an income tax break. And the “right-to-work” folks are annoyed that Kasich has refused to support their ballot measure, or the concept of right-to-work in general.

I’ll leave it to these guys to battle it out with Kasich and his team over what is or isn’t “conservative enough” for Ohio. But I have to take serious issue with the numbers Kasich uses to defend himself, and I think these conservatives should too.

To provide a counterpoint to the claims from the leaders of many of Ohio’s top conservative groups, Vardon points to “Statistics provided by Kasich’s office”.

According to these ‘statistics’: “the budget Kasich signed last June cut general-revenue spending by $683 million when Medicaid is excluded.

The phrase “statistics provided by Kasich’s office” should already have you worried. And in this case you’d absolutely right if you did. That’s because Medicaid – which Kasich’s office decided to exclude from his spending numbers – actually makes up 44% of the state’s general revenue fund budget in 2012 and 46% in 2013. So Kasich’s “statistics” actually exclude nearly half of GRF spending!

Are you asking the next question yet? What happens if we DO INCLUDE GRF spending for Medicaid?

Well I’m glad you asked.

Under “conservative” Governor John Kasich, general-revenue spending on Medicaid jumped 32%, from $18.9 billion in FY10-11 to $25.0 billion in FY12-13. That’s a 6 billion increase. Across all funds, not just GRF, Medicaid funding totals increased $0.97 billion and $0.93 billion in FY 2012 and 2013 to $18.84 billion and $19.76 billion respectively. That’s a nearly 2 billion increase.

When you look at the ENTIRE budget, you see that overall GRF spending under Kasich went UP over FIVE BILLION dollars. No wonder he wanted to exclude the Medicaid numbers from his budget.

(Check the numbers for yourself here)

If anyone had bothered to follow up with the Governor’s office on these numbers, I’m sure they’d defend their choice by saying the Medicaid stuff is complicated. There’s federal money involved. And some stimulus dollars. And an increase in Medicaid recipients because of the recession. And this is all true. But completely irrelevant.

The whole budget is complicated and has these same issues. You can’t just pick and choose the parts that make you look good and assume no one will notice. You can’t go out and say your budget cuts spending when it actually increased spending by over 5 Billion dollars. You can’t go out and say I’m a super-conservative, budget-cutting genius … but only when you look at this specific 56% of my spending and ignore the rest.

I realize these numbers were included as a way to try to balance the story and give Kasich’s team a chance to respond to the claims. And I can’t completely blame Vardon for not questioning their relevance in his piece. But conservatives already angry at Kasich for other reasons should be seriously concerned when the best response his office can muster up to their concerns is a set of deceptive numbers that, when fully analyzed, completely destroy the fiscal conservative credibility they were intended to provide.