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Will case against Kasich's cuts to LGF reawaken the sleeping giant of SB 5?

If leaders like Mark Sanders of the Ohio Association of Professional Fire Fighters can help reawaken the sleeping SB 5 coalition giant, Gov. Kasich may have a race on his hands come November.
If leaders like Mark Sanders of the Ohio Association of Professional Fire Fighters can help reawaken the sleeping SB 5 coalition giant, Gov. Kasich may have a race on his hands come November.
John Michael Spinelli

Local elected officials, firefighters and police spoke out Tuesday at the Statehouse in Columbus, on the harmful impact Gov. John Kasich's billions in cuts to the long-established local government fund have had on their communities.

At the event, Cincinnati Councilmember PG Sittenfeld, Franklin County Commissioner Paula Brooks, Toledo Councilmember Lindsay Webb, Springfield Township Trustee Joe Honerlaw, Ohio Association of Professional Fire Fighters President Mark Sanders and the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police Director of Government Affairs Michael Weinman took turns expressing their dismay with Kasich's cuts and their frustration that the governor doesn't think the cuts are as awful as they said they are.

Both Democratic and Republican local elected leaders and first-responders highlighted the ongoing impact of Gov. Kasich and the GOP-run legislature's failure to restore LGF as part of the Mid-Biennium Review Budget.

"We have a very simple message to deliver: Please stop raiding the coffers of local communities across Ohio," said Councilman PG Sittenfeld, representing Cincinnati. "This is a bi-partisan issue that is hurting red counties and blue counties, big cities and rural areas alike. The Governor and Legislature need to get their priorities back in line, like making sure local communities have enough cops and firefighters."

Watch Mark Sanders on 60 Seconds Ohio.

Sanders asked the legislature and Gov. Kasich "to do what's right" by local government, namely returning dollars they send to Columbus so local personnel infrastructure can be in place to do what the public has come to expect from local officials.

After he won a tight election in 2010 by fewer votes than it takes to fill Ohio Stadium, Gov. Kasich, a media darling after spending much of the decade working at Fox News, balanced the state budget by cutting billions from government and schools. In the cuts, he reduced the LGF by $700 million in his first budget.

"For the governor to boast about a rainy day fund that almost exactly mirrors what's been raided from the Local Government Fund just doesn't make any sense," Sittenfeld told The Enquirer in an email, referencing the $1.5 billion savings account the state filled last year. Kasich has said Ohio shouldn't spend the money because it gives job creators confidence about the state's strength.

Producing on the GOP's long-held belief that reductions in the income tax and the estate tax some how create jobs, Gov. Kasich and a friendly Republican-dominated General Assembly eliminated the $300 million estate tax, 80 percent of which went to cities and townships, and then pushed tax cuts last year instead of restoring the money for local governments.

Local leaders have complained that the cuts from the state only forced them to raise taxes at the local level to make up the difference or reduce services and benefits to the public as their way of making do with the funds that used to come to them but stopped when the Kasich Administration took over in January of 2011.

"Locally communities are hurting – the state should want to be a good partner," Sittenfeld said to one reporter.

When Sittenfeld was asked if the case he and his fellow leaders were making to day, including through testimony before the House Finance Committee, would be enough to reawaken the sleeping giant that was the SB 5 coalition that thunderously turned down a bill that would have effectively gutted collective bargaining in the state, he could only say he hopes so.

In 2011, when Senate Bill 5, which would have changed how Ohio handled collective bargaining by public sector union workers for nearly 40 years by giving managers all the power, a situation even some Republican lawmakers balked at, was brought to a vote of the entire state, the law and those who supported it, including Gov. Kasich, experienced a heavy handed defeat on Election Day that year.

Gov. Kasich said the people spoke clearly that night but he has refused to say that he won't sign a right-to-work bill if one is delivered to him. His best response so far has been to say "it's not on his agenda." Michigan's governor showed that right-to-work can be off the agenda one day and be on it and signed into law the next, as happened when he make Michigan a right-to-work state.

Ed FitzGerald, the already endorsed Democratic candidate to take on Gov. Kasich this year, has said he'll stand up for local communities, teachers, firefighters, policemen and nurses, among others, who have been hit hard by Kasich's cuts.

The conventional wisdom now is that the election this year is Gov. Kasich's to lose, given he's the incumbent, will have a giant war chest and has cheering fans in the form of Ohio media at his back, trumpeting all his reforms as smart business moves that will pay dividends later.

Despite Kasich being well known and FitzGerald being little known, the two are not far apart in recent polling. Kasich leads FitzGerald, but in regions except Central Ohio, where the Columbus Dispatch has been a real fan of Gov. Kasich's, the two are within the margin of error, according to Public Policy Polling's unpublished regional survey data.

If FitzGerald has any chance of defeating the powerful Kasich, who spent last weekend courting Las Vegas billionaire and Republican Sheldon Adelson, he can only do it if the SB 5 coalition is rallied to return to the field this year. If the conventional wisdom that Democrats against get shellacked this year, in part due to the confusion surrounding Obamacare, then Ed's odds of winning will be low.

If the sleeping SB 5 giant can be woken, then the long-shot FitzGerald stands a chance of defeating a politician who has never lost an election.

The news article Will case against Kasich's cuts to LGF reawaken the sleeping giant of SB 5? appeared first on Columbus Government Examiner.

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