By this time next week, Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s first biennium budget will be subjected to close scrutiny by just about everyone involved in state government. Of particular interest to most Ohioans is whether the two-year spending plan developed by the freshman governor reflects the shared sacrifice he spoke about Tuesday during his State of the State address to a joint session of the Ohio General Assembly.
There’s no doubt that Republican Kasich and the Republican-controlled House and Senate have a monumental task in balancing the spending plan in the midst of a national economic downturn without hurting the job-creation initiatives the administration is pursuing.
In his address, the governor made it clear that spending cuts alone would not erase the $8 billion shortfall — anticipated revenue compared with what state departments and agencies are spending in the current biennium — but he also insisted that a tax increase was out of the question.
“We cannot tax our way to prosperity,” he said, contending that Ohio is one of the highest taxing states in the nation.
So, if spending cuts alone won’t balance the books, and a tax increase is out of the question, what other avenues is the governor pursuing to gain control of the budget?
We look forward to finding the answer in the blueprint he will submit Tuesday to the General Assembly.
We are also curious to learn how the governor intends to spare economically hard-hit regions like the Mahoning Valley from the pain that is bound to come with his austere spending plan. During his speech, he specifically talked about Youngstown, the Mahoning Valley and Youngstown State University, leaving the distinct impression that he, like his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, intends to make the state a partner in this region’s job-creation effort.
“I went to Lordstown,” he said, referring to his visit to General Motors Corp.’s assembly plant. “We cannot let Lordstown fail. It is the center of that Valley. We’ve got to make sure that we work closely with the auto officials, and we must do what we have to do to make sure that plant is up to date. And while we have the [Chevrolet] Cruze, I always think in the future: What do we get next in Lordstown? The union and the management have worked well together.”
Kasich also mentioned “the steel plant” — V&M Star’s $650 million state-of-the-art steel pipe-making facility being built by the company’s French parent, Vallourec — and Delphi Packard Electric as assets in the region.
The governor, who is well aware of the deep Democratic roots in Mahoning and Trumbull counties, also strongly endorsed Youngstown State University, which, like the other state universities and colleges in Ohio, is facing a major funding cut from the state.
“It is a wonderful school and its best days are clearly ahead, and we will do everything ... to make sure that Youngstown State is as solid and as great as it can be,” Kasich said.
During his four years in office, former Gov. Strickland paid special attention to the Mahoning Valley because he recognized the challenges the area has faced since the steel industry collapsed more than three decades ago. While there has been progress made in diversifying the economy, the creation of high-paying jobs remains a priority.
We are encouraged by Gov. Kasich’s comments, but for the people of Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, actions speak louder than words.