It’s hard to imagine that Gov. John Kasich will devote much if any of his second to last State of the State Address in February discussing the approximately three counties and 28 cities that are experiencing elevated fiscal stress levels after six years of his administration’s budget razzle dazzle.
But the facts about how Ohio counties and cities are doing after six years of Gov. Kasich’s smash and grab budget strategy is clear to anyone who dares surf through the database of information put out Wednesday by Ohio Auditor David Yost, in what has been dubbed the “Fiscal Physical” database of financial health indicators.
Yost’s staff identified 17 common indicators that warn cities or counties of problem areas in advance so they can measure their fiscal stress levels and take appropriate action to staunch the bleeding.
“It’s statutory, there’s objective method for it, but I just hate getting there,” he said, the AP reported. “I understand the challenges that are faced when you get into that kind of situation where your back is against the wall and you’re the local elected official and you’re left holding the bag for many decisions by outside forces that have been gathering for years, maybe even decades.”
The system flags a “lack of investment in capital and infrastructure, spending that exceeds revenues, declining year-end revenue balances and declines in property-tax revenues.” A Republican who support Kasich for president, David Yost, who just announced his run for Attorney General in two years, didn’t have to name his governor buddy and the state’s friendly GOP legislature as contributors to the fiscal ill health of the three counties and 28 cities that are already in or close to being in fiscal troubles. But for anyone who has followed the sequestering of formerly local government funds by the Kasich Administration, in order to replenish the emergency fund and keep Wall Street’s bond rating for the state at high levels, it’s no secret local governments have suffered under Ohio’s 64-year old term-limited, lame duck chief executive who said he learned about business when he worked on Wall Street for Lehman Brothers.
Mr. Kasich made his second run for the White House last year, claiming he turned Ohio around, going from budget deficit to budget surplus, bringing back jobs while reforming public pension systems to be “rock solid.” His claim about the state’s emergency fund is largely true, although it was made whole again by withholding then banking billions in funds that for decades before were shared with local governments, who have had to turn to their own residents for higher taxes to maintain service levels as previous levels.
Gov. Kasich, even with the help of his pet project JobsOhio, has for 47 of the last 48 months been unable to meet or beat the national job creation average, resulting in tens of thousands of workers dropping out of the workforce because good paying jobs were not plentiful enough. This explains, in a perverse way, why Ohio’s unemployment rate is as low as it is. Meanwhile, the governor’s reforms to public pension systems are not rock solid, as reports by analysts show fund levels are down while fees charged by hedge fund managers are up dramatically even though investment returns are poor.
Poverty has risen as state revenues have declined, forcing Gov. Kasich to repeat his new mantra that budget times are tough, and any increases will be small. If his so-called “Ohio Miracle” was as miraculous as he has claimed, Yost’s database wouldn’t contain the grim statistics it does. What will make matters worse for Ohio is when President Trump and Congressional Republicans further exacerbate matters with a health care replacement plan that will force more people off of affordable heath insurance they now have due to the Affordable Care Act and the expansion of Medicaid contained in it.
Fifteen cities cited in the database with elevated stress levels, as reported by the AP, are: Akron, Ashtabula, Canton, East Liverpool, East Cleveland, Fostoria, Garfield Heights, Girard, Maple Heights, Martins Ferry, Nelsonville, Niles, Norwood, Ravenna, Springfield and Washington Court House. Fiscal emergencies had previously been declared in East Cleveland, Fostoria, Maple Heights, Niles and Norwood.