Ohio Gov. John Kasich spent much of last week rubbing elbows with world leaders and company CEOs at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Entering the final two years of his first term and gearing up for reelection in 2014, Gov. Kasich was pitching the Buckeye State as salesman-in-chief aboard.
Even though he has no declared candidate to oppose him yet, notwithstanding Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald's all but declared candidacy to run for governor, Ohio Democrats are trying to redefine Gov. Kasich as the Grinch who stole funding from local governments and school boards, setting the stage for the coming campaign that's already in progress despite the official campaign season being more than a year away.
One of the major arguments Democrats will make for defeating the talkative relic of Reagan-era supply economics is the governor's attack on local schools and governments that he used to balance his first state budget without raising taxes by withholding billions in funding that traditionally flowed to counties, cities and school boards.
The governor has long boasted that he inherited a budget $8 billion out of balance, but balanced it without raising taxes. For the past two years, and all through the presidential campaign this year, Gov. Kasich took to the stump at rallies for Mitt Romney and took full credit for Ohio's improving economy, even though it had been improving prior to his election to office, in large part due to the investments President Barack Obama made to save the auto industry, which has a large presence in Ohio, the nation's top state for auto parts manufacturers.
With his second biennial budget due in early February, Gov. Kasich will face a phalanx of Buckeye Democrats who say his last attempt to balance the state's budget without new revenues was only accomplished by passing the buck on school funding, local safety and fire forces to local taxpayers.
Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank headquartered in Columbus, released an analysis Tuesday it said proves what Kasich Administration critics have long suspected: the Governor has merely shifted the responsibility for adequately funding Ohio schools from the state to the local level.
IO said its analysis found that since May, 2011, a record-breaking $1.1 billion in local property and income tax levies earmarked for schools has appeared on local ballots. Voters approved just 40 percent [$487 million] leaving numerous school districts across the state scrambling to maintain needed academic programs and staffing levels.
Innovation Ohio President Janetta King said, "In his first budget, released in March, 2011, Governor Kasich cut K-12 funding by $1.8 billion, compared to the previous biennial budget."
Since 2011, Kasich and his allies in the General Assembly have vehemently denied any such shift, King added, noting that because of the inherent difficulty in tallying up all the levies in Ohio's 600-plus school districts, and separating out new operating levies from renewal, replacement and capital levies, it was hard to prove conclusively who was right and who was wrong."
As of today, she said, what the Kasich Cuts have meant to school districts and local taxpayers is irrefutable. "As of today, the Governor and his allies can no longer claim they aren't responsible for passing the buck and dodging their constitutional responsibility. As of today, all Ohioans know the true cost of the Kasich Shell Game."
IO stressed in its analysis that the $1.1 billion figure includes only new operating money, not renewal or replacement levies or money for capital projects.
King said that her group, along with the state's education community and many newspaper editorial pages, repeatedly warned that the Kasich cuts were simply shifting responsibility for school funding from the state to the local level.
Since 2011, Gov. Kasich and a Republican-led General Assembly have denied any such shift, King said in prepared remarks. Because of the inherent difficulty in tallying up all the levies in Ohio's 600-plus school districts—and separating out new operating levies from renewal, replacement and capital levies—it was hard to prove conclusively who was right and who was wrong.
"As of today, what the Kasich Cuts have meant to school districts and local taxpayers is irrefutable. As of today, the Governor and his allies can no longer claim they aren't responsible for passing the buck and dodging their constitutional responsibility. As of today, all Ohioans know the true cost of the Kasich Shell Game."
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