DAVOS, Switzerland - Jet lag is not an option for Gov. John Kasich. The Republican governor returns home today from the World Economic Forum following four hectic days recruiting business executives and investors to consider Ohio.
DAVOS, Switzerland — Jet lag is not an option for Gov. John Kasich.
The Republican governor returns home today from the World Economic Forum following four hectic days recruiting business executives and investors to consider Ohio. What awaits him is a dizzying schedule of landmark events over the coming days, beginning this week with the unveiling of his K-12 school-funding formula.
The rest of Kasich’s proposed 2014-15 budget is due on Feb. 4, his State of the State address in Lima is on Feb. 19, and in between will surely be an untold number of events promoting his plans.
In a normal year, unveiling a much-anticipated school-funding formula, announcing a tax-cutting budget and giving a State of the State speech in a period of about 20 days would constitute a trying, pressure-packed month.
Embarking on his first overseas trip as governor and knowing that this will be the last full-fledged budget he proposes before he seeks re-election next year would only seem to compound the pressure, but Kasich insists that this breakneck period for him is consistent with the pace he has kept throughout his two years in office.
“The most important thing of the term is, we got out of the (budget) hole, we’re running surpluses, our credit has improved, we’re job-friendly and we’re developing a reputation,” Kasich said. “These individual policies are one thing, but it’s the overall change in attitude, the excitement. Things are popping.”
Among the key differences in this upcoming budget cycle for Kasich, compared with his first in 2011, is that this time, people know what to expect.
A cut in the state income tax — geared especially toward helping small businesses, Kasich said — will be paid for in part by Kasich’s proposal from 2012 to raise the severance tax on shale oil and gas drillers. He has hinted at possibly eliminating some sales-tax deductions and closing tax loopholes, and there could also be some surprises in his tax “reform” package. He said last week that he expects to end the fiscal year on June 30 with about $1 billion in the rainy-day fund.
Kasich’s new school-funding plan (he calls it a reform plan instead of a funding formula) is more of a mystery, but he has dropped clues — such as money following students and giving school districts more flexibility to pursue performance-based pay incentives for teachers, if they choose.
The governor said he doesn’t “have to make a final decision” on whether to expand the state’s Medicaid program — an option in President Barack Obama’s federal health-care law — but “we have to deal with the issue” in the budget.
Already-announced plans to leverage the Ohio Turnpike to pay for road projects and increase the amount of public funding for higher-education that’s tied to graduation rates also will be included in his proposals in eight days.
“These are not things in a 10-second sound bite you can just describe,” Kasich said. “But they’r e exciting — they’re very exciting — so we have lots to discuss.”
John Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron, said the “policy innovations” Kasich is likely to propose “could cause him some political headaches.”
As a preview, consider some of these forecasts from Kasich’s detractors.Democratic Rep. Armond Budish of Beachwood, the House minority leader, warned that Kasich could undermine the state’s long-term success if he again cuts overall funding to primary, secondary and higher education.
“Schools and communities across the state were devastated by historically deep cuts in Gov. Kasich’s last budget,” he said. “In addition to dozens of municipal levies on the ballot last year, 194 school districts were forced to seek higher property taxes from residents. The fact of the matter is, our state is only as strong as our schools and local communities.”
Budish also said Kasich’s school-funding plan should avoid “rewarding politically generous for-profit charter school operators.”
Dale Butland of the liberal policy group Innovation Ohio, listed all of Kasich’s expected proposals — from taxes to school funding — as “putting therich and his cronies …ahead of the middle class and the poor.”
Kasich “will try to do at the state levelexactly what the GOP has been trying to do at the federal level,” Butland said.
Lowering tax rates by broadening the base was indeed the basic tax policy put forth by failed 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. But Kasich recently has done some things — requiring insurance coverage for autism, choosing to bond against rather than privatize the turnpike — that were not in lock-step with conservative ideology. An expansion of Medicaid would be another break.
“The upside of policy innovation is results,” Green said.“If the governor can show that innovations have or will make Ohio better, then the budget decisions can be a big plus.”
Beyond the budget this year, Kasich told The Dispatch that he would seek top-to-bottom reviews of departments throughout state government to make structural changes, comparing what he wants to happen with what’s already occurred in the Department of Taxation, the prisons and JobsOhio.
Kasich said he would bring in “someone from the outside” to assist in the reviews, and he met with an undisclosed operations consultant in Davos who might participate. The assistance would come free to the state, according to aides, much like Kasich’s recent announcement that Accenture was helping him with an online program for communicating with businesses at no cost. The state has paid millions to consultants for help with casino rules and studying the turnpike under Kasich.
Kasich also intends to relocate Ohio’s European trade office from Belgium to Germany but said his administration is analyzing when would be the most-cost effective time to make the move.