Gov. John Kasich will present his final two-year state budget at the end of January as state revenues continue to miss yearly estimates. Newly-minted Senate President Larry Obhof of Medina said Kasich’s final budget will be the most challenging budget since 2011. “There is a substantial gap that we’ll probably have to fill,” he said. He added this ominous forewarning, “We will tighten our belts if we need to. We plan to govern conservatively.”
Faux fiscal hawks like Ohio’s 69th governor, the state’s most pious and sanctimonious of all, and Ohio’s new Senate leader misunderstand why Ohio got sucker-punched by the Great Recession, then misprescribed how to fix it. Not mentioned as a reason for tough budget times are the counter-productive tax policies pushed by Kasich and his like-minded GOP lawmaker leaders, who still believe, despite decades of evidence to the contrary, that giving the wealthiest undeserved and not needed tax breaks creates jobs and generates more revenue due to more fabled economic growth. Their claims of a coming recession actually validate the reality that their tried-and-failed tax policies continue to be ineffective in producing the Ohio miracle they allege happened.
Ohio has limped along by replacing jobs lost from the Great Recession, created by President George W. Bush with the help of his Republican Congress, with mostly lower paying jobs. Ohio’s regressive income tax cuts, that go back a decade, have left the state looking for more cash even as Ohio’s leaders now complain about dipping revenues as a sign of an oncoming recession. Recession in Ohio is at odds with the national economy that’s chugging along, with GDP clocked in at 3.5 percent last quarter. The stock market is at new highs, consumers spent more during the holidays that ever before, and low interest rates—that indicate inflation is well under control—have left Americans with less personal debt.
Gov. Kasich’s self-serving retention of billions from schools and local governments has forced action at the local level, where taxpayers’ desire to keep service levels constant require them to pony up more cash in local taxes.
Kasich’s so-called Ohio miracle will become decidedly more mirage when he and party-loyal lawmakers make matters worse when they cut Ohio’s contribution to fund Medicaid. The growing number of people using Medicaid—the federal-state program for the poor that services many children and women—is a reverse litmus test that shows how many more people are less well-off.
The fewer people eligible for Medicaid translates into more people earning enough to be able to pay for their daily needs, including healthcare insurance. When Mr. Obhof proudly proclaims “We plan to govern conservatively,” Buckeyes trying to make ends meet need to watch out.