Gov. John Kasich enjoyed a good week following the release of new numbers from Quinnipiac University showing a plurality of Ohioans support him and think his final term will be good for the state. Following the release of his executive budget, which at $72.3 billion dwarfs any previous state budget, Gov. Kasich, a bottom-dweller on a list of potential GOP candidates who want to run for president in 2016, has been on the offensive around Ohio to defend his pricey budget. The biggest spending package by far, the governor’s third budget took quick flack from Democrats and from a few important Republican legislators, who last budget cycle cleaved many of his key portions way down.
Kasich is nothing but consistent and defiant in defending his policies and programs, as he’s doing now to critics of his income tax reduction plan who rightfully accuse him of shifting taxes to the less well off in order to give the very well off even more taxpayer subsidies. Policy Matters Ohio made that perfectly clear when it released a new review of the big spending plan. PMO showed his budget would hike taxes on cigarette sales to help fund another decrease in Ohio’s income tax by shifting a greater portion of the state’s tax burden to low and middle income Ohioans. Lifting people up no matter their circumstances is Gov. Kasaich’s faith-based mantra, one he repeats over and over as he tries to straddle a moral high-road.
West Coast Best Coast?
But Gov. Kasich’s dreams are bigger than his reality, at least when it comes to producing good-paying jobs that Ohio families have relied upon for decades since the end of World War II nearly 70 years ago. “We love the old line industries,” Kasich said in a published report. “But we want the Facebooks and the Googles and the Pay Pals. … We want all those businesses. We want advanced energy. We want medical device development. We want better imaging. We want logistics,” the late great Cleveland Plain Dealer quoted him sayinig. “You have to change the way you do business in this state if you are going to diversify this state away from just the old-line industries.”
Those so-called old-line industries, including steel, glass, rubber and other manufacturing processes directly related to the auto industry, of which Ohio is the largest leader in auto-supply chain jobs, have been leaking out of the Buckeye State for decades now, starting in the 1970s and gaining momentum during the 1990s, when the North American Free Trade Agreement saw industries pack up and head for sunny climates in other states or even foreign countries, as they left workers and their communities high and dry.
Wanting the Facebooks and the Googles and the Pay Pals in Ohio is easy to say, but hard to do. Currently, these three are new-century powerhouses are headquartered in California, where they contribute tens-of-thousands of jobs to the Golden State’s economy. Californians, those west coasters Mr. Kasich likes to mock as “whackadoodles,” are doing pretty good these days, thank you, with their legendary Democratic governor, Jerry Brown, at the helm and a strong supporting role by a Democratic-controlled legislature.
Whereas Ohio is 37th in job creation, according to state rankings by Arizona State Universities W.P. Carey School of Business, California is 10th. Maybe it’s the California model Gov. Kasich should be looking to instead of his so-called “Ohio Model,” which has pushed past two straight years of under-performing the national average by creating mostly low- and minimum-wage jobs.
When Gov. Kasich says he wants “advanced energy,” he needs to explain better than he has so far why he signed a bill that moves Ohio retrograde on that subject. In a published report covering the second of six stops in Ohio’s Energy Future Tour designed to call attention to the economic benefits of renewable energy including solar and wind, and energy conservation, leaders in the field see Ohio as an uphill climb. John Seryak, CEO of Go Sustainable Energy, a Clintonville company that advises businesses on how to reduce energy use, said, “There are still a lot of good things going on, but there’s bad and ugly, too,” according to a Columbus newspaper. Seryak and other advanced energy leaders are all opposed to Ohio Senate Bill 310, which Gov. Kasich signed into law in June. The bill established a two-year freeze on state standards for renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Gov. Kasich called it a “re-set” to standards that are reasonable, but everyone knows it gave Ohio the ignominy of becoming the first state to take such action. Meanwhile, these advanced energy industries thrive in states like California where progressives know digging more coal isn’t the answer to 21st century energy problems. The bill Gov. Kasich signed eliminated a requirement that utilities buy half of their renewable energy from in-state sources. As a result, Gov. Kasich’s so-called reset represents more “forward to the past” thinking. Seryak and others know there are greener pastures elsewhere for their industry. The view expressed in print is that “businesses are scrambling to maintain a footing in the state.”
Dan Litchfield, senior business developer for Iberdrola Renewables, who was at the same meeting in downtown Columbus, said, “It’s going to be very challenging for wind energy in Ohio.” Litchfield’s company is headquartered in Oregon and developed Blue Creek Wind Farm in Van Wert and Paulding counties, which represent the state’s largest wind-turbine development. Ohio State University is a big customer of One Blue Creek since it derives one-quarter of its electricity from the project.
Unlike Ohio, California has increased its wind power capacity 350 percent since 2001. Sources say that as of the end of September 2012, total wind energy now supplies about 5 percent of California’s total electricity needs. California was the first U.S. state where large wind farms were first developed in the early 1980s. California then produced 30 percent of the entire world’s wind-generated electricity by 1995.
P&G Looks to West Virginia
Meanwhile, as Gov. Kasich openly fantasizes about California companies coming to Ohio, another big Ohio-based company is ready to invest $500 million in a West Virginia manufacturing facility slated to open in 2017. In a news release Tuesday, Procter and Gamble, the multinational manufacturer headquartered in Cincinnati, announced it expects to create 700 permanent jobs at the planned facility in Berkeley County, near Tabler Station outside Martinsburg. The company said another 1,000 temporary construction positions are expected.
Gov. Kasich is a salesman on par with Harold Hill, the flim-flam man from “The Music Man,” who duped a bunch of small-town Iowa rubes into buying instruments so their children could play in a marching band instead of playing pool in the local pool hall. Ohio’s term-limited music man likes to play popular songs that sounds good on paper, but generally don’t sound great in the key of reality. Maybe, if Ohio can move closer to the top of the job creation index where California is, Gov. Kasich’s dream of new-line industries might make more sense. Until then, though, he better hope and pray that the state’s “old line’ industries continue to operate here.