Gov. John Kasich is learning that he may still be governor, but that’s a office that doesn’t hold the power it once did, now that majority Republicans in the General Assembly can dismiss his agenda or override his veto pen at will.
They don’t need him anymore. He needs them if he wants his last two years as state chief executive to be something other than a Medieval-style bleeding session where he’s the anemic patient voodoo doctors have their way with.
The petulant lame-duck governor has been able to command deference from his own party members whose love for him these days isn’t as deep as it once was, when he thought he’d be the next leader of the free world. He’s getting a taste of his own bitter medicine as the GOP majority buddies up again with oil and gas frackers who asked for and received hundreds of millions in Santa-like gift giveaways from lawmakers who radically altered a bill that will cost state and local governments about $264 million combined, if a bill passed passed in the recently concluded lame-duck session becomes law with or without his signature.
As predictable as night following the day, it was basic Kasich for the governor’s office to decline comment on what he will do with the bill, that opens the sluice gate of funds flowing from the state to oil-gas companies at a time when state revenues have fallen by almost 5 percent, causing Kasich to panic as he forecasts recession is coming.
John Kasich has always looked for new revenues to cover the cost of his income tax cuts. One source of revenue he’s pursued without success has been to call for more taxes on shale fracking in Ohio. But Republican legislators have opposed Kasich in the past and could do the same thing again if he vetoes Senate Bill 235, this year’s vehicle of largess to the industry’s Christmas wish list.
Kasich loved to label Ohio’s low severance-tax rate “a big fat joke,” knowing statehouse media scribes would eat up his rhetoric. But that big fat joke may be on him now, as he’s confronted with what to do with it in light of the state’s unraveling budget situation. One House committee chairman said the bill represents a clarification of current law, adding that any refunds from the state to industry players represents taxes that never should have been collected.