For the past week the Kasich Adminsitration has been in overdrive, spinning stories about the State budget to supporters on Facebook and Fox News about “his” budget surplus being used to refill Ohio’s rainy day fund. But Kasich, and the papers, seemed to have overlooked one major fact: the bulk of the rainy day fund deposits actually came from a surplus properly credited to Governor Strickland.

Kasich has been boasting all week that the rainy day fund contained only 89 cents when he came to office, and now it has $482 million, highlighting the fact that last week – the end of the first year of Kasich’s initial two-year budget – the Kasich Administration deposited $235 million into the State’s rainy day fund from the “surplus” left in Kasich’s budget. 

To hear Kasich talk, and given the sloppiness of the media’s reporting on it, the causal observer would have thought that Kasich was soley responsible for replenishing the rainy day fund.  But no one seems to be asking: where did that other $247 million come from?

Kasich meet reality. I believe you two have not met before...

Not a single media outlet has pointed out that this year’s surplus was smaller than the last surplus left under Strickland’s Fiscal Year 2011 Budget.  In fact, Kasich’s first budget was funded, in part, by a carry over balance of the surplus from Strickland’s last budget.   And most of the money in the rainy day fund is still from the Strickland surplus.

But we’re still being too kind to Kasich.  You see, Kasich’s entire claim of a “budget surplus” only exists if you view it with the required Kasich budgetary equipment:

How Kasich's OMB found a surplus

Here’s the Columbus Dispatch explaining how Kasich was able to reach a surplus this fiscal year:

 In addition to the boost in tax revenue, the state spent about $450 million less than expected — much of which from lower Medicaid caseloads and managed care costs.

In other words, Kasich’s budget surplus is largely from spending less in Medicaid than the Kasich Administration expected.  But Kasich then warns that now isn’t the time to reverse his draconian cuts for local governments and schools because of… Medicaid:

Looking down the road, Kasich is concerned that with the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the federal health-care law, it could cost Ohio an estimated $370 million in calendar year 2014 and $570 million in 2015 because the law is expected to bring onto the Medicaid rolls thousands of Ohioans who are now eligible but are not using the state-federal health-insurance program.

In other words, Kasich’s claim of running a surplus is based on a lower Medicaid case load, which is largely due to the fact that the Kasich Administration is covering even fewer eligible Ohioans.  Medicaid is an entitlement program.  Saying Kasich is running a budget surplus when he’s leaving an estimated half a million poor and elderly Ohioans from receiving the Medicaid they’re legally eligible and entitled to receive is nothing to celebrate.  Kasich’s “surplus” is built on denying poor Ohioans health care that they could not otherwise get… leaving them to either not seek treatment at all or force them to accept ER care which creates an unfunded mandate on hospitals.

Yes, I imagine the federal government’s balance sheet would look much better, too, if it chose not to pay Social Security benefits to all that were eligible, but is that really the path we expect our government to take?

Over the weekend, Greg wrote about how Kasich is playing Obama bashing politics with Medicaid, talking about how covering all these eligible Ohioans would cost the State nearly a billion dollars over the next two years.  It would appear that nearly a third of Kasich’s scary figure constitutes the Ohioans who were on Medicaid but aren’t any more as a result of Kasich’s “surplus” creating drop in caseloads.

Then, Sunday’s Cleveland Plain Dealer reported how Kasich’s Medicaid scare number is likely largely inaccurate because:

  • The Ohioans who could receive Medicaid, but aren’t enrolled, are likely healthier and require less medical care than those enrolled in Medicaid and therefore, the cost of covering them is likely less than the population of sick and elderly Medicaid users.  The Kasich Administration refused to say what breakdown of healthy vs. high medical needs the Adminsitration used to create their figure (in other words, they refused to show their math even though it’s not a trade secret or anything like that);
  • Folks eligible for Medicaid aren’t subject to the penalty if they don’t get health insurance or enroll in Medicaid, so some may continue to remain uncovered;
  • Enrolling more people in Medicaid saves the State the money it provides hospitals for providing charity care and mental services.

So, in order to create a boogeyman talking point against the Affordable Care Act, Kasich has accidentally let slip the economic reality that his so-called surplus exists simply because his Administration has dropped hundreds of thousands of Ohioans off the Medicaid rolls.

He can complain all he wants about how the federal health care reform act complicates his “surplus” creating scheme, but as Greg pointed out, he’s had two years to figure out how to cover every Ohioan who’s eligible for Medicaid.  Kasich gave the schools and local governments only two months to prepare for his budget in comparison.  So, I can’t expect they’ll have much sympathy for Kasich on this front.

Time and time again, we see Governor Kasich largely taking credit where none is due.  As it relates to his so-called surplus and the rainy day fund, we see Kasich taking credit for deposits he isn’t responsible for and deposits he morally should be ashamed he was able to make.

The credit rating agencies on Wall Street improved Ohio’s credit outlook largely based on Strickland’s surplus refunding of the rainy day fund.  Though Kasich had not yet enacted his own budget and had nothing to do with the deposit except making it (which he was legally obligated to do), that hasn’t stopped him for taking the credit for that, too.

Now we see Kasich is willing to create phony surpluses by reducing the caseload of people on Medicaid even though they are still eligble.  We need a Governor who cares more about Ohioans than impressing Wall Street credit raters.  2014 can’t come soon enough for some Ohio families.