What a difference two years and a new governor make. The state of the state of Ohio is growing stronger.
Ohio lost 400,000 jobs during the Strickland administration, and was 47th in the nation in job creation. The rainy day fund was drained, leaving it with 89 cents, and Ohio’s credit outlook had been downgraded. As the new governor, John Kasich had to deal with an $8 billion shortfall. Sure the economy was lousy, but the Strickland administration chose to ignore the structural imbalances in its budget, kick the can down the road, and relied on hope and change.
From day one John Kasich has focused almost entirely on job creation. His first order of business was to create JobsOhio to replace the economic development functions of the near dead Ohio Department of Development, which had become so irrelevant that the Strickland administration left it without a director throughout the recession. Kasich took on Ohio’s regulators by creating the Common Sense Initiative, which is ensuring that state regulations aren’t hampering job creation while continuing to protect public health and safety. But most important, Kasich’s Jobs Budget passed in 2011, has put Ohio back on the map of economic relevance, making Ohio more job friendly.
Under Kasich, Ohio is now doing much better by any meaningful metric. After losing 400,000 jobs, Ohio is now up 120,000 jobs. After being the 47th job-creating state, Ohio is now number six in the nation and number one in the Midwest. The 89 cent rainy day fund now has $1.9 billion, and our credit outlook — which impacts what it costs the state to borrow money — has been restored to stable. Ohio is better off in virtually every economic measurement possible.
Kasich has now introduced his second budget which again makes Ohio more open to job creation. The plan includes a 50 percent tax cut for virtually every small business in Ohio, which sends a strong signal that Ohio is more about job creation and private enterprise than bigger government. He also cuts the state sales tax a half percent while broadening the base to make it fairer. Kasich also wants to cut the income tax for every Ohioan by 20 percent — Ohio remains a high-tax state and the income tax remains a barrier to job creation. If we want job creators to come here, we have to drive down the income tax. This is a lesson the city of Youngstown should learn soon.
The Ohio Turnpike will not be sold or leased, but its value as an Ohio asset will be leveraged to bring billions of dollars to much delayed infrastructure projects, many in our part of the state, meaning even more jobs.
The Valley is doing better, Ohio is doing better, and people are going back to work. The governor is the first to admit that there’s more work to do, and while his Jobs Budget is indeed that next step toward economic growth, his critics will complain as they always do. What is not debatable is the fact that Ohio families are better off than they were two years ago because of the governor’s focus on job creation.
Only one issue mattered during the 2010 campaign and that issue still matters today — jobs. Gov. Kasich succeeded in creating them, and his partisan critics excelled at losing them.
Mark E. Munroe is chairman of the Mahoning County Republican Party.