On education, over the next two years, Kasich is expanding school choice by quadrupling the numbers of vouchers available and rescinding a statewide cap on charter schools. He is capping higher-education tuition hikes at 3.5 percent, requiring that all university professors teach an extra class, and asking universities to look into ways of offering three-year bachelor’s degrees.
On the jobs front, he’s adamant about the need to forgo tax hikes, even preserving an $800 million tax cut implemented in January. “States with lower levels of taxation have faster economic growth,” Kasich observes. He’s also setting aside $100 million — the profits from the state’s liquor monopoly — to fund JobsOhio, a new initiative dedicated to attracting and retaining businesses in Ohio. With an unemployment rate of 9.2 percent and a loss of over 600,000 jobs in the last decade, Ohio could use the boost.
Both the state house and senate are Republican-controlled, and Kasich is “very optimistic” that the budget will pass. “I’ve told [state lawmakers] that if they have some better policy ideas, that’s fine — but we will not negotiate the numbers. We will have a balanced budget, and we will preserve the tax cut,” he says.
Ultimately, it’s an ambitious venture for the former House Budget Committee chair, who played a crucial role in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. Kasich, who beat Democratic former governor Ted Strickland by two percentage points, is staking his political future on this measure leading to an economic recovery. He’s currently lagging in the polls — his job approval is only at 30 percent, while his disapproval is at 46 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released this month. An even higher number (51 percent) disapprove specifically of Kasich’s budget.
But if the budget succeeds in bringing about an economic resurgence, look for Kasich to reap the benefits. In a piece headlined “Kasich’s beliefs at heart of plan,” Columbus Dispatch writer Joe Hallett commented that the “plan is as much a social budget as a fiscal one, built on ideology as much as practicality,” and said that “Ohio, at least in modern times, has never seen a state budget like [this].”
Kasich is ready to be judged on the results. “Budgets are just a means to an end. They’re not an end in themselves,” he observes. “This budget can set the stage in our state for recovery.”
— Katrina Trinko is an NRO staff reporter.