Gov. John Kasich has been warning for months now that tax revenues coming into the state are below expectations and that the upcoming two-year state budget will be tighter than in the past. His recent speeches have taken on a new theme.
In a room filled with economic development leaders from around the state, Kasich explains the budget will be tight. He says it’s not because Ohio is doing anything wrong.
“About half the states are experiencing revenue shortfalls right now," he says. "This is not unique to us. And by the way, I saw that the Cavs even lost a couple of games. And then I watched us in the bowl game. Nothing goes like this. Nothing I can think of goes like that. Things in life go up, they kind of come down and they go up.”
Kasich told the Bible story about Joseph, who stored grain for seven good years and how that kept the Egyptians from starving during the following seven bad years. He likened the grain to Ohio’s rainy day fund.
“So we have 2 billion dollars in our rainy day fund and that is not to fritter it away for one thing or another," Kasich says. "You understand, I have been around politics for a long time. They like to spend. And if you fritter it away, when the crisis comes and the drought comes, and you get in the middle of a fiscal year, you need to have the support and the resources to make sure you don’t have total disruption.”
One of the leaders at the event asked about helping struggling local communities that experienced cuts in state funding in previous budgets. Kasich said he’s not going to, as he put it, "kick the can down the road.”
He says he’s going to make sure the budget is balanced and leave Ohio in good shape for his successor, still talking tax cuts – which he calls "tax reform."
But he also says some taxes are too low, though he isn’t identifying which ones. During the last budget, he tried once again to raise taxes on gas and oil – a move that lawmakers once again prevented. All this potentially means less money for state agencies and for local communities.
In the past week, Kasich’s speeches have taken on a new theme: It’s up to citizens, not government, to solve the state’s problems. And he used Ohio’s opioid epidemic as an example.
“We can approach this drug problem from the top down," Kasich says. "You think it will work? It will help. We can spend the money, we can put the protocols in, we can bust the people, we can do all of those things. But you know what is really going to be effective? Is when you are in a restaurant and you see a group of young people and you walk over to them and you say to them, ‘Let me warn you about the dangers of drugs.’ You see the best solutions in our country come not from the top down but a combination of the bottom up with the top responding.”
Kasich went on to urge these business leaders to run for school boards, mentor young people and get engaged in solving local problems. He tells them they shouldn’t worry about being overly intrusive.
“We need to have the community engaged. Our churches, our synagogues, our civic organizations and us as citizens. Stick your nose in somebody else’s business because that is what the Lord wants.”
Kasich says there will be some "cool things" in the state budget, like better data analytics that will track trends and identify solutions to problems in a variety of areas like transportation, opiate addiction, infant mortality, unemployment or education. Kasich said to expect a new Ohio Institute of Technology that will oversee those analytics.
Kasich also says his budget, which will be released later this month, will contain plans to bring more business expertise to Ohio’s local school boards and help students learn skills that will prepare them for the jobs of the future.