Kasich’s Ohio Budget Disaster

Posted: March 26, 2011 in reason foundation, reason magazine, reason.tv

It sounds like a mythic tale of heroic salvation: A former Republican congressman with a fierce reputation as a cost-cutter comes out of retirement, runs for governor of one of the largest states in the country, and is swept into office by an anti-incumbent, anti-spending wave. Frustrated voters also give the new governor’s party control of both houses in the state’s legislature.

He promises to tackle a historic deficit by slashing spending in his first budget and then…tries to jack up spending by 11 percent during his first two years in office?

If the state of Ohio – “the Heart of it All” according to the state’s license plates – is a political weathervane, then Gov. John Kasich’s first proposed budget represents an ill wind for fiscal responsibility.

Kasich won a narrow victory in November by promising to create a business climate that would grow the state’s shrinking private sector, which has bled nearly 600,000 jobs since 2000. He inherited a historic $8 billion deficit, a consequence of out-of-control spending that spiked outlays by 41 percent in inflation-adjusted dolars since 1990. (That huge bump, incidentally, happened mostly under Republican legislators.)

To call Kasich’s opening budget a massive disappointment to the small-government proponents and Tea Party types who put him in office is an understatement.

Reformers such as Matt Mayer of the Columbus-based Buckeye Institute were hoping for a fundamental rethink of how the state spends money. Instead, in an embarrassing three-hour meeting in March, Kasich released a budget that actually increases spending over the coming two years from $50.5 billion to $55.5 billion (like many states, Ohio budgets for two years at a time).

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