At the State of the State address scheduled for Tuesday in Sandusky at the Sandusky State Theatre, Ohio’s 69th governor, John Richard Kasich will most likely pursue all too familiar themes in Ohio instead of selling his already known world vision and soon-to-be released his new book out of state.
According to the AP, the latest book by Gov. Kasich, “Two Paths,” expands on a campaign speech last year in which he warned against “vicious” campaign tactics as undignified and playing on hate and fear. The multi-millionaire state leader says Americans need to find common ground to tackle society’s big challenges.
After six months on the presidential campaign trail, partially paid for by Ohio taxpayers who can’t find out how much they’ve invested in the governor’s loosing run last year for president, and a travel junket to Germany and England followed by trips to Washington to appear on national TV shows, Mr. Kasich’s cameo performance as governor Tuesday evening will be enlightening in light of new data on just how ungreat Ohio is right now.
When John Kasich won his squeaky close election in 2010, he set his sights on running for president in 2016. That dream could only happen if he won a second term in 2014, a midterm election year. Blessed by a politically inspired backroom deal that sidelined potential primary challenger Charlie Earl of the Libertarian Party, a Democratic candidate who cratered early and never recovered, and the lowest voter turnout since World War II, the Catholic boy from McKees Rocks, PA, who once wanted to become a priest but found performance politics more to his liking, had clear sailing ahead to be a national contender even though fewer than one in four registered voters voted for him.
Always angling for showmanship, Gov. Kasich decided, after he held his first State of the State address in 2011 at the traditional Columbus location, that the Ohio Statehouse was not the venue for the road show presentation he had in mind. You can’t fly a giant Ohio flag like Mr. Kasich has unfurled at each of his previous six on-the-road State of the State shows in the cramped Ohio House of Representatives chamber for reasons related to feasibility, chamber decorum and historic traditions, among other considerations. Big flags need big venues, so high school auditoriums and special venues are the new standard for Camp Kasich.
Kasich Making Ohio UnGreat Again
How ungreat is Ohio again? That may be best viewed from Gov. Kasich’s drama-filled perspective that Ohio is on the “verge of recession.” The days of Gov. Kasich extolling his “Ohio Miracle” for national TV audiences are gone. The new measures of how great Ohio isn’t anymore can be found at sources other than the Office of Governor. How will Gov. Kasich address the real state of the state? Comprehensive data points to too many Ohioans struggling under his policies, most importantly, his tax-shifting from those who have wealth to those who don’t.
In advance of the address from Sandusky Tuesday evening, Democratic lawmakers want to help Ohio’s CEO-style leader understand just how ungreat Ohio is after six years of supply side trickle-down economics is combined with harsh, socially conservative measures. Gov. Kasich’s budget, not his new book about wanting to be America’s first national chaplain, is already getting negative reviews for how it fails to properly speak to key areas like the economy, education and healthcare. The bond with cities the state enjoyed for decades has been stepped on, starting with the governor’s sequestration of funds flowing to communities to pay for local services.
House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) sees hypocrisy in talking recession with a budget that exacerbates with more tax-shifting. “Ohioans deserve to hear honest remarks from the governor on his plan to address the economic and other challenges facing our state, because so far his plan just seems to be more of the same,” Leader Strahorn said in prepared remarks.
Echoing real news found at Plunderbund, Gov. Kasich’s consistent below average performance is data driven, not intangibles like what CEOs think about Ohio. Job growth has trailed the national average for 51 consecutive months, and 2016 was the slowest year of Ohio job growth on record since the Great Recession in 2009. That’s not making Ohio great again by the numbers.
Not making Ohio great is reflected in both the quantity and quality of jobs, neither metric is friendly to Ohio’s, who spent 18 years in Congress and six years working for Lehman Brothers on Wall Street. The average household in Ohio is below the national average for earnings, ranking 32nd out of 50. About 1 in 7 Buckeyes live below the poverty level, a rate slightly higher than the national average.
Rep. Nick Celebrezze (D-Parma) thinks Gov. Kasich and GOP lawmakers owe Ohioans a good explanation for why their promise of a growing economy fueled by good jobs isn’t turning out as planned? “Instead of a highly-marketed self-promotion campaign tomorrow night, Ohioans want to hear the governor’s plan about how he will put them back to work and drive economic growth,” Celebrezze said Monday.
Democrats won’t let it be forgotten that Mr. Kasich rode into the statehouse by the slimmest of margins, then callously cut over $1.7 billion in local community funding that mostly pays for police and fire, road maintenance, clean water and quality public schools. In Ohio today, 33 cities are on the state’s fiscal distress list because of inadequate finances needed to provide basic services and meet fiscal obligations.
“Communities across the state are struggling to pay for the police and fire that keep us safe, to keep teachers in the classroom and to keep roads and bridges from crumbling – all due to drastic cuts made by the governor and his legislative partners to pay for tax breaks for the wealthiest Ohioans,” said Rep. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood). “If we expect our workers to compete in the 21st century and our state to attract the best and brightest of the next generation, we have to invest in our communities, not starve them of critical resources.”
During Kasich’s tenure, Ohio’s education rankings have tumbled from fifth in 2010 to 22nd nationally, according to the education-industry trade publication, Education Week. School funding is still lagging behind pre-recession levels, with $1 billion dollars less for public schools since 2008 while Ohio charter schools have received an historic $1 billion in taxpayer dollars.
“The legislature has failed to find a constitutional model of supporting our public schools for two decades, but continues to throw good money after bad at failing, for-profit charter schools,” said Strahorn. “Cutting public education while funneling more taxpayer dollars to a charter industry beset by scandal only hurts our children and will leave them unprepared to compete in the 21st century economy.”
Though Kasich expanded Medicaid in Ohio under the Affordable Care Act, many Ohioans continue to face barriers to good health. According to the United Health Foundation, Ohio ranks 39 out of 50 nationally for population health and the average Ohioans life expectancy is a full year below that of the average American. Instead of pursuing policies to increase access to care, however, Kasich – in his new budget – is kicking some 40,000 vulnerable Ohioans off of healthcare through new taxes and fees.
In addition, while the nation’s infant mortality rate has dropped to historic lows, Ohio has lagged behind other states in improving its abysmally high infant mortality rate. The Buckeye State has consistently fallen near the bottom of state rankings of infant mortality rates under Kasich’s watch, and a pronounced racial gap in the rate means African American babies in Ohio are three times as likely to die before reaching their first birthday.
Meanwhile, Ohio leads the nation in heroin and opioid overdose deaths under Kasich’s watch. Despite repeated calls from Democrats, the governor has refused to recognize the statewide opioid epidemic as the statewide emergency that it is and release emergency funding to support law enforcement, treatment providers and first responders struggling to address the crisis at the local level.
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, whose name has been floated as a potential candidate for governor in 2018, hopes to hear the governor back up his call for bipartisanship by restoring funding to cities he took away in his first budget, the largest in state history.
“Gov. Kasich should join forces with local leaders to address the issues facing our communities. We need to create jobs, and educate and train our workforce, but we also need to come together to stop the scourge of heroin and opiates that are devastating our citizens and their families,” Mayor Whaley said in a statement issued prior to Mr. Kasich’s remarks. Ms. Whaley is running for reelection as Mayor of Dayton in 2017, and she’s the first incumbent mayor to run opposed in the city’s history.
The only suspense is who Gov. Kasich might use as a stage prop on Tuesday, as he’s done before. Ohio could be made great again if Gov. Kasich could create more and better paying jobs, increase the number of people moving in versus those moving out, funding the opioid crisis as Democrats and others have challenged him to do, advocating for laws that help women rather than hurt them, restore funding to local governments he took funds away from, and tax the wealthy who can and should pay more instead of taxing those least able to afford paying more.