It’s a fact: Gov. John Kasich and his handlers don’t lose sleep out of fear Ohio media will ever question their well-crafted, but largely false narrative, that Ohio was doing well until Gov. Ted Strickland spent down the state’s emergency fund down to 89 cents for no apparent reason.
The history of Ohio’s troubles can be easily found for anyone who cares to look. It started well before voters elected Ted Strickland by a nearly 2-1 margin in 2006, following GOP pay-to-play politics that was so egregious that voters finally voted Republicans out of power after having controlled it top to bottom since 1994.
The bad luck for Gov. Strickland, who campaigned to turnaround the state from years of decline under Republican rule, was that the Great Recession was on its way to the heartland. The economic catastrophe of historic proportions was about to decimate the state. Republicans like Mr. Kasich suffer partisan memory loss when they fail to mention the the Great Recession, maybe for fear some reporter might be audacious enough to ask him what he would have undertaken, that didn’t include utilizing the single, specific tool designed for just such rain day emergency situations, to keep the ship of state afloat?
To keep Ohio stabilized as the economic tsunami rolled across the nation leaving hardly a state untouched, Gov. Strickland reduced state spending, wisely accepted federal state stabilization funds and, yes, depleted the state’s rainy day fund as any good manager would have done.
Presumably, had John Kasich been governor during those terrible years, would he have not touched the rainy day fund? Would he have chosen austerity policies instead, making matters far worse? Would he have cut government spending or reduced state revenue by doling out income tax cuts to the states wealthiest individuals and businesses? For low-information voters, the 89 cents story is simplistic and compelling.
But for anyone who understands the severity of the toll taken on Ohio, which includes the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs, Gov. Strickland, elected after a dozen years of total control by Republicans who believe the patently false notions about low taxes and limited government spending, as Gov. Kasich does, using emergency funds in an emergency situation was the absolute right choice.
Gov. Kasich purposely fails to note that Strickland gave him an economy on the upswing, one that outpaced the national job creation average, while Gov. Kasich has failed to even equal it for 31 straight months. John Kasich also benefited from tens of thousands of jobs created under Strickland, and takes bows for them along with nearly $1 billion in funds from Strickland that helped replenish Ohio’s rainy day fund.
Before signing his third largest budget in state history at the end of June, Gov. Kasich, who’s out selling what he’s done for Ohio as his recipe for the nation and has set July 21 as his presidential announcement date, repeated his well-worn but never challenged story of how he balanced Ohio’s budget without raising taxes. The 89 cent story is now cemented in Kasichlore, but it’s mostly a fairy tale. His passion is to take care of himself and his band of insiders who have cashed in by selling access and influence, while sparing no expense to clear the road of obstacles. If his passion is to help others, he’s done a pretty poor job of that, and his latest budget is a perfect example of who he’s passionate for.
At the budget signing, Gov. Kasich said Ohio has it’s swagger back. He’s proud of the $2 billion now in the rainy day, but fails to say he stole it from local governments, public schools and union workers who saw their tax dollars shifted to his coffers. For all the governor’s talk about minding the store and keeping his eye on the future, depositing billions back into the rainy fund also provides a convenient foil to why his team hasn’t replenished those funds back to the rightful recipients. When you steal food from others to replenish your larder, then tell those you stole from to go grow a garden, that’s gutter level governance, but that’s basic Kasich.
“Ohio is winning, we’re beating a lot of places,” Gov. Kasich said at the budget signing, signaling that more tax cuts are coming if he has his way. “I’m never going to rest until the income tax is a lot lower.” Budgets are about hope and opportunity, he said, adding, “We have delivered on that … we’re restoring strength to Ohio … it’s good stuff.”