For any visitor from another planet who landed in Sandusky Tuesday night and sat in the audience at the Sandusky Theatre to listen to Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s seventh State of the State [SOTS] speech, the Ohio leader would have impressed mightily with his hyperbolic remarks that lasted more than an hour.
For anyone from Earth who’s heard the governor’s previous six SOTS presentations, the seventh was full of more sound and fury, signifying nothing. Gov. Kasich was back in Ohio for a change, repeating his favorite themes of faith, living beyond oneself by helping others and bridging partisan divides. Kasich’s kumbaya comments thickened the air in the theatre like a fog rolling in off of nearby Lake Erie.
He repeated his favorite alternate facts about his rise to governor, that Ohio was bankrupt after losing 350,000 jobs and his smart budgeting kept Ohio’s bond rating high, as the lame-duck governor made Ohio sound as if it was a leader among states when real data shows just how ungreat it is.
Real data on where Ohio ranks nationally on a range of key categories shows a different narrative from the one the governor delivered today: Infant mortality [39th], hunger [44th], home foreclosure [40th], high school graduation , college tuition [36th], poverty [30th] median income , unemployment , job growth [32nd], home ownership by race [41st], high school graduation by income [40th] and median wage by gender [42nd].
The great reformer may have been at his best when he talked about self-driving car technology and what it will do to transporting people from place to place. He also pushed for the Third Frontier Commission to spend $20 million to advance medical counters to opioid addiction quicker than might otherwise happen. His call to take tax collection away from local governments, to save businesses an estimated $800 million in tax preparation costs, is also in troubled waters as cities recoil from that great reform. Having plumped up the state’s rainy day fund with funds that used to go to local governments and schools, some want that money returned.
As for his claim of a coming recession and being fiscally conservative, each of Gov. Kasich’s budgets have been the largest in state history. For comparison, former Gov. Ted Strickland’s final budget was smaller than his first in response to the ravages dealt the state by the Great Recession, an economic calamity Mr. Kasich never mentions when he talks about the jobs lost before he became governor. Gov. Kasich’s executive budget continues to grow with spending increases of 4.4 percent in 2017-2018 and another 1.8 percent the following year.
With his new book “Two Paths: America Divided or United,” coming to a bookshelf near you soon, Mr. Kasich will be out-bound from Ohio again, this time back to New Hampshire where he finished a distant second to Team Trump in 2016. In the small, libertarian oriented state Mr. Kasich bet the ranch on winning, he hopes to parlay the months he spent there into more fluffy PR that he’s a voice that just won’t fade away, even though his term as governor will fade away in less than 24 months.
With his last two-year budget already on the ropes, he pretended that his call for more income tax cuts and higher taxes elsewhere to pay for them is the kind of gold bullion that Fort Knox was once famous for storing. Whether you’re an alien or an Earthling, if such an office as National Chaplin existed, Gov. Kasich would be the hands-down favorite to win it.