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Kasich sticks foot in mouth



Published: Sat, April 23, 2011 @ 12:00 a.m.

COLUMBUS

As I’ve said on more than one occasion, politicians say the craziest things.

Sometimes, it’s rip-roaring, side-splitting stuff that leaves the electorate rolling on the floor, barely able to breathe from the convulsions of laughter erupting from within.

But sometimes, it’s anger-inducing rhetoric that defies logic and common sense and leaves the electorate ready to fire expletives and furniture in the direction of the speaker.

A couple of things that Gov. John Kasich said last week would fall into the category of the latter and should make the blood boil in the veins of Ohioans who have been struggling to make ends meet during several years of economic slump.

That would cover a whole lot of people, judging by the documented number of unemployed people in the state and undocumented number of people who have seen their pay, health insurance and other benefits slashed.

Pay Raises

During a press conference marking his first 100 days in office, Kasich was asked whether lawmakers should cut their own pay, as a symbolic recognition of the economic realities facing many other Ohioans.

Members of the Ohio General Assembly earn more than $60,000 a year, with those in leadership topping $85,000 or $90,000. They also get other perks — public pensions, tax breaks for their time in Columbus and travel stipends.

That’s pretty good money, especially in this economic environment. Cutting pay rates a few percentage points wouldn’t push any lawmaker into the poorhouse.

Some Republicans agree with that reasoning and have supported a pay cut, but the majority of others aren’t backing the idea — at least publicly.

But back to Kasich. Here’s how the governor responded to the question about the issue: “I think they should be treated like all other state employees, and state employees actually are going to get a pay raise.”

In other words, not only should lawmakers not have their pay cut but they should get a raise?

Angry yet?

During that same press conference, Kasich touted a multi-million incentive package to keep Bob Evans from moving its corporate offices out of state. Instead, the company will relocate from Columbus to an upper scale suburb about 20 minutes away.

Justification

But a few minutes later, Kasich used Bob Evans as justification for collective bargaining reform.

“When I go to Bob Evans and I see a woman working in there who doesn’t have any pension and I don’t even know if she has health care benefits and if she does they’re shabby at best ...” he said. “We’re asking public workers to do a little bit more. People who have guaranteed benefits and people who are not paying very much for their health care and to ask them to do a little bit more in the name of providing balance to that mom who’s trying to educate her kids. It’s fairness.”

Kasich makes a legitimate argument. Most people I know in the private sector no longer receive pensions and for years have been paying out the wazoo for health insurance.

But the governor’s comments can be taken to mean one of two things: Either he is OK with millions of dollars of state incentives going to companies that aren’t providing adequately for their employees, or he thinks policeman, firefighters, teachers and other public employees should be earning “shabby at best” benefits.

In fairness, it should be noted that Kasich generally speaks off the cuff, without the aid of a script or a teleprompter, and sometimes his words don’t exactly match his meaning.

He acknowledged that fact last week.

“You have to be careful what you say sometimes,” he said. “... I’m sure that there’s a screw-up around the corner somewhere, but I’m going to be a little bit more careful.”

Only problem is he made that acknowledgement after making less-than-careful comments about lawmaker pay raises and private sector workers with shabby benefits.

Marc Kovac is The Vindicator’s Statehouse correspondent. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.


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