CHRIS RUSSELL DISPATCH
Gov. John Kasich delivers a mid-budget review at the Riffe Center. Kasich unveiled many proposals yesterday to change how government operates, including about $113.5 million in spending cuts.
Kasich unveils long list of plans to change state
By Joe Vardon and Catherine Candisky THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
In a $55.8 billion budget, a net $92 million in new savings is hardly noticeable.
But Gov. John Kasich characterized the totality of what he offered in his mid-biennium review yesterday as “massive.”
As he did when he introduced his first full budget proposal last March, Kasich delivered a mid-budget review that was full of proposals to change how government operates. Included were about $113.5 million in spending reductions and $21.5 million in new spending spread across 32 state agencies.
The Republican also unveiled a new grading system for schools and a reading guarantee requiring schools to provide additional services to youngsters who are not proficient in reading beginning in kindergarten. Students who have not caught up by the end of third grade would not move on to fourth grade.
Tax cuts also were on the governor’s agenda: an across-the-board income-tax cut for Ohioans (climbing to about 5 percent by 2017, according to Budget Director Tim Keen), to be paid for through “modernized” severance taxes on shale drilling; and a simplified, lower tax rate for most financial institutions.
When it’s all delivered to legislators, Kasich said his proposals could “be in the vicinity of a couple thousand pages” and would “overwhelm the legislature.”
“Almost every time I turn around, I find another piece of broken Ohio,” Kasich said yesterday during a nearly two-hour presentation to the news media. “I think the people of the state ought to feel good that we’re working day and night and burning the candle at both ends to live up to our responsibility.”
Acknowledging the $1.4 billion in cuts to schools and local governments made in the current budget, the Kasich administration is recycling the “tools” metaphor for those entities to manage costs by making it easier for them to merge services.
One new policy proposal is to give all of Ohio’s county Job and Family Services departments the ability to merge.
Kasich’s plans also would allow school treasurers to function as business managers; local health departments to go outside traditional borders to share or contract with staff members; and county auditors to serve as fiscal agents for other county offices.
Jay McDonald, Ohio’s Fraternal Order of Police president, called for Kasich to couple shared services with new revenue from shale drilling to restore local-government funding.
“They could do both,” he said. “Ohio’s villages, townships, cities and counties have been devastated by the reductions in funding from the state; services have been cut or taxes have been raised to continue those services .”
Other Kasich proposals include:
- Shale-drilling impact fees of $25,000 per “fracked” well that go to local governments. Companies recoup the money through property-tax refunds.
- A Tax Appeal Backlog Assistance Program within the state Taxation Department to shrink the backlog of property-tax appeals from the county level.
- Help for Ohioans with developmental disabilities who are able to obtain jobs in the community. Currently, most are directed to “sheltered workshops” where they are paid far less than minimum wage.
- $3 million in additional funding for community mental-health services to help with high-cost patients.
- Requirements for hospitals to meet yet-to-be developed performance criteria to collect their full Medicaid payment for the care they provide the poor and disabled who are enrolled in the state insurance program.
- Support for Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson’s plan to overhaul the city’s school system.
Kasich said Jackson’s plan isn’t finished, but in essence it includes removing seniority as the sole factor in staffing decisions, eliminating existing teacher contracts, sharing some local tax revenue with charter schools, and giving school officials authority to extend the school day or school year without teacher input.
The proposal has drawn fire from teachers’ unions and others contending that it is similar to Senate Bill 5, a measure slashing public-employee unions that was overwhelmingly repealed by voters in November.
Jackson’s plan also is a pilot program that Kasich has hinted could be a road map for statewide education reform if successful. firstname.lastname@example.org email@example.com
(After all Ohio has been through this past year under Kasich’s rule, it is hard to respond to any of this with the civility necessary in order to print. What has happened to the plans to recall this man? Jan)