“You don’t give up just because you don’t get anything done,” said John Kasich, Ohio’s great reformer governor, about the last bad budget he submits before wandering off the political radar screen in two years.
Statehouse watchers predict Gov. Kasich’s last bad budget at $66.9 billion, again topping the charts as the largest in state history, will largely be ignored in its current form. Not getting anything done while talking about what he wants to do is basic Kasich. As C.G. Jung put it: “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”
Why Johnny can’t learn that his former close Republican buddies in the Ohio legislature don’t really need or want his ideas anymore is no mystery to students of the great reformer. The executive budget he submitted shows what a hard learner he is when it comes to thinking his old tax-shifting tricks that once sounded so good, have fallen into disfavor with Ohio’s legislative leaders, all Republicans and all conservatives, who not so long ago did his bidding and even rallied around his run for the White House last year.
But the days of fearing Gov. Kasich have, predictably, come to an end as Republicans, who command new and higher numbers in the legislature, reshape his budget to suit their will. Reaction to it from Senate and House leaders show just how dead on arrival it is.
Senate President Larry Obhof and House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger are fellow Republicans, but even they said they have no interest in hiking some taxes in order to pay for more of the governor’s ballyhooed income-tax cuts.
Is Kasich become a victim of his circumstances of his own making?
Just a few years ago he proclaimed the turnaround of the state under his watch as an “Ohio miracle.” He told scores of townhall attendees on the campaign trail last year that his programs and policies saved a state once “broke” by going from a deficit of $8 billion to a surplus of $2 billion. He bragged about the his leadership on giving back $5 billion in income tax cuts, the largest of any state. He said he learned how business works during the six years he spent working on Wall Street for Lehman Brothers. He proclaimed Ohio’s retirement pension funds rock solid.
How could being so right for so long suddenly turn into being so wrong about so many aspects of government in such a short time? Kasich’s so-called Ohio miracle is now on the verge of a recession, according to the governor, who’s issued repeated warnings of coming economic tough times in advance of the “tight budget” be just submitted to the legislature.
According to Gov. Kasich’s Office of Budget and Management, his last bad budget offers these highlights:
$20 million per year more in tax cuts.
State income tax is reduced by 17 percent as tax brackets shrink from nine to five.
The personal income-tax exemption for low- and middle-income Ohioans increases, eliminating the state income tax for 360,000 Ohioans.
Hiking state sales tax by 0.5 percent to 6.25 percent, and expanding who is subject to it, including cable TV, elective cosmetic surgery and lobbying.
Hiking the state cigarette tax to $2.25 a pack from $1.60 and expanding it to e-cigarettes.
Hiking oil and gas severance taxes to 6.5 percent [at the wellhead] and 4.5 percent to later production process stages.
Keep higher-education tuition and fees at current levels for two years.
Demand public colleges and universities provide students with textbooks, with the option of charging them $300.
Cutting funding to many Ohio schools with a 1 percent hike overall.
Paying for an additional 20 Project DAWN (Deaths Avoided With Naloxone) sites in high-risk counties.
Spending on two “smart-highway” projects, including one on Interstate 270 along the south and west sides of Columbus and along one already planned for Rt. 33.
Hiking the tax on a glass of wine and a can of beer 1 cent.
Kasich Critics React
Critics of Kasich’s last bad budget say proposed sales-tax increase and reduction of income-tax brackets “will have a negative impact on the poor and working-class families.” Keary McCarthy, president of Innovation Ohio, said the income-tax cuts are less valuable to poorer families because they pay little if any income taxes anyway, but they would pay the higher sales tax on many purchases, one newspaper reported.
House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn of Dayton said, “Tax shifting from the wealthy few to the working and middle class has sidelined Ohio and predictably failed to bring back middle-class jobs.”
Joe Schiavoni, the top Democrat in the Ohio Senate, criticized the governor’s proposal as “tax shifting” without making meaningful investments in top priorities. The Youngstown Democrat and Senate Minority Leader, said Kasich’s tax policy “nickels and dimes lower income people.”
Three million or about 26 percent of Ohioans are currently enrolled in Medicaid funded managed care, which is a measure of how bad off many Ohioans are under Kasich management. He now wants to move more than 150,000 mostly elderly and disabled Ohioans receiving long-term care services at home or in nursing facilities into private managed care plans. Analysts who have reviewed the executive branch budget say it rests on $200 million in new monthly premium charged to Medicaid beneficiaries who are childless, not pregnant and have an income level above the poverty level. Washington in the past has denied this charge, but the Trump administration, which has largely dismissed Kasich as an non-factor, may be different.
As Plunderbund education expert Greg Mild has written on Kasich’s ideas about education, “the Governor has put out a brief list revealing that his political agenda remains unchanged – testing, privatization, and minimal funding, with some slight evidence that he may not actually know what is already taking place in Ohio.” The governor continues to want locals to plug the gap in taxes created from his sequestration of funds that once flowed to them.
It’s no secret that Ohio’s population growth is moribund. Last year 58,000 more people moved out than moved in. After six years in office, John Kasich still says he can change the image of Ohio from “the rust belt to the knowledge belt,” as he told a gathering of reporters. He’s been unable for 48 out of 49 months to meet or beat the national average for job creation.
Meanwhile, Amazon picked northern Kentucky for a hub to create 300 jobs because the workforce was there, not in Wilmington, Ohio. Gov. Kasich prides himself on reducing jobs in government, but government jobs are one of the key areas that keep Ohio performing poorly on job creation, along with a slow-down in manufacturing. Gov. Kasich’s budget chief shifted the blame on poor performance on jobs from the governor to the state’s aging population.
Kasich Gives Strickland Credit For Job Expansion
In recent testimony before a House committee, Tim Keen, Kasich’s budget chief, didn’t mention the name of for mer Democratic governor Ted Strickland directly, but he should have, given the fact that he said Ohio has “seen nearly eight years of economic expansion.” Kasich defeated Strickland in 2010 by fewer than 77,000 votes nationwide, largely on criticizing Gov. Strickland for the national Great Recession that hit Ohio hard.
The Akron Beacon Journal weighed-in on the governor’s last bad budget, saying his budget plan misses the point. “With the state facing a skills deficit, plus such challenges as the worst of the opioid epidemic and communities needing to invest in public works and services, it could use a portion of that $3 billion annually to rebalance its priorities and truly build for the next generation.”
Meanwhile, with his last bad budget in trouble, Mr. Kasich isn’t giving up on running for president again in 2020. John Kasich the author is touting his next book, called “Two Paths: America Divided or United.” Kasich likes to say he is the path of light, bringing people together. But his history clearly shows that if you’re not with him, he’s not with you, as his intemperate, petulant attitude has shown over and over.