Ohio Governor John Kasich is not known for his skills or interest in reaching across the aisle – or even across the table to people in his own party.   This is the guy who told the entire state to get on his bus or risk getting run over.  The guy who, shortly after being elected, made it clear he wanted to rip control of the entire Ohio Republican Party away from Kevin Dewine and proceeded to wage a long, expensive, nasty and possibly-illegally-fought battle to do it, threatening and retaliating against anyone who stood in his way.

Kasich wants total control and he’ll bully anyone he needs to, regardless of party, in order to get his way.

This same type of bullying has defined Kasich’s relationship with legislators in his own party.  Kasich comes up with the ideas, draws up the details on his own, then sends them over to legislators who are expected to pass them into law without asking any questions.  No communication, just lots of commands from Kasich and his cronies.

2012 saw this bullying in full effect; one of the best examples is Kasich’s plan to increase taxes on oil and gas companies.  The governor dropped a bill in the laps of the legislature without ever consulting legislative leaders on its content.  Needless to say, Republican legislators were pissed off about suddenly and unexpectedly being asked to pass a tax increase on businesses during an election year.  They immediately stripped out all references to severance tax increases and the associated income tax cut it was supposed to pay for.

One might consider blaming this outreach and communication failure on a new and inexperienced administration or on the fact that much of Kasich’s staff, including members of his legislative team like Ben Kaiser, were out working full-time fighting other Republicans on the oust-DeWine effort.   But even after Kasich took control, by force, of the central committee with promises of party unity, Republican legislators still seem to be privy to very few details about the plans of the Governor’s office.

For example, Republican House and Senate leaders were not briefed on Kasich’s turnpike plans until the day before he released them.   It seems the Dispatch’s Joe Vardon may very well have known before many members of Kasich’s own party and certainly before any Democrats, legislators or otherwise, had any details.

The same seems to be true for Kasich’s upcoming budget and school funding plans.

During a panel at the recent Impact Ohio Conference, Kasich Budget Director Tim Keen insisted that local government funding would not be restored in the upcoming budget while Ron Amstutz, House Finance Chairman, also on the panel, seemed to have other plans for restoring funds to locals.  Assuming Amstutz is still finance chair, Keen and the Governor will need him to help push through their budget – but it doesn’t seem like they’ve been doing a lot of sharing about their plans.

Republicans in charge of education-related legislation are similarly out-of-the-loop.

According to a recent NPR story, the “Republican leader of the House Education committee Gerald Stebelton says he hasn’t been privy to details of the governor’s new [school] funding formula” which was supposed to be delivered over a year ago.   Ohio has effectively been without a school funding formula since Kasich took office and threw out Strickland’s Evidence-Based Model.

There has been one possible change at the Governor’s office indicating things could change next year: Kasich recently hired Jim Lynch  away from his BFF Gordon Gee in order to do outreach for his budget plans.  But if I had to guess, Lynch will be tasked with marketing and PR for the budget, similar to the job Fahlgren did for Kasich’s turnpike plans, instead of actually working with legislators to help craft its content.

Kasich’s claims that he’s accomplished anything in a bipartisan manner in 2012 are laughable.  And the party unity Kasich promised?   Republican state legislators, at this very moment, are worrying about what kind of crazy crap Kasich is going to ask them to do this year.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the remarkably stark contrast between Kasich and the previous Democratic governor who worked with legislators from both parties to help craft legislation.  Strickland’s first budget, for example, passed nearly unanimously despite having both the Senate and House controlled by Republicans.  This was accomplished through bipartisan discussions and negotiations NOT by throwing something at the legislature last minute and then trying to bully them into passing it.

Kasich is statutorily required to present his budget in the next month but, as far as we know, no Democrats have been involved in these very important budget discussions.   And, we imagine, few if any Republican legislators have been involved either.

The budget.  The turnpike.  Schools.  Roads.

THESE are the things Ohioans should be worried about.

Shouldn’t WE be involved in discussions about these issues?   Shouldn’t OUR legislative representatives be driving the discussion and making the decisions?

We think so.

So the next time the Governor tries to push through one of his bills introduced without consulting the legislature in advance, we highly recommend every member of the state General Assembly stand up and say:

What you talkin’ ’bout, Kasich?