Gov. Kaisch’s State Budget: The Ugly, the Bad, and the Good

In my opinion, Gov. Kaisch is not the handsomest dude on the planet. I suspect his wife may have a different opinion.

What the governor lacks in appearance he makes up in statesmanship. His speech to the legislators on the budget was downright inspirational. Not only that but he even dared to praise the members of the opposing party for their work and accomplishments on a number of issues.

It almost made me cry.

I did say–almost!

Seriously, the budget itself is a mixed bag of missed opportunities (the bad) and a number of advancements for Ohioans and their economy (the good). Of course, it all depends on who you talk to, or, in this case, whose report you read.

According to the report by Matt Mayer, President of the Buckeye Institute, the governor’s budget missed some important opportunities. The bad news is the general revenue fund will be $1.26 billion greater for 2012 than in 2011 and $1.73 billion for 2013. That is a biennium increase of 12 percent. This is the second highest increase since 1990.

So how can the Governor increase spending with an $8 billion deficit? According to Mayer, the governor’s budget shows total revenues exceeding the deficit by $8 billion, which causes Mayer a lot of concern. It shows Gov. Kaisch has chosen to continue the same old policies of the past that eventually resulted in the present fiscal crisis.

Equally disturbing is the governor’s cuts to local governments. Instead of innovating new strategy to fund both state and local governance, the governor chose the slash-and-burn approach. This easy money strategy doesn’t reduce the size of state government and thus return local tax dollars back to local governments who must continue or fund new programs. Gov. Kaisch simply cuts funding to local governments to increase spending and balance the budget.

The $5 million budget deficit proposed by Xenia city and school officials may be nothing more than advanced notice of the state budget cuts. On the other hand, the budget deficit could be the typical 10% inflation budget estimates for contingency purposes; all institutions increase budget estimates for unforeseen costs. Budgets are based on previous year revenues, expenditures, known issues that will increase costs, plus 10% for unknown costs usually in addition to a contingency fund for emergencies.

Be that as it may, Mayer wishes Gov. Kaisch would have made the difficult choice of cut government employee compensation a little as well as cut the executive and legislative branch budgets. If he had cut the death tax, the bill making away through both houses, he would have as much money to spend, and many others will wish he had less money to throw at his program agendas.

Mayer did find some good in the Gov. Kaisch’s budget. The governor made noteworthy strides in such areas as prison reform, healthcare cost containment, and education funding. He included alternative sentencing approaches to non-violent offender that along with reforms nursing home service costs to Medicare will save taxpayers millions of dollars.

Some think his nursing home reforms are ugly and bad too.

Gov. Kaisch chalked up a few more good points with a number of his educational reforms. For example, his “support for Teach for America and doubling of EdChoice scholarships are vital lifelines to the most vulnerable and will inject more competition into our broken K-12 system.” Scraping the previous governor’s unfunded, evidenceless, one-size-fits-all Evidence Based School-Improvement Model will end the veiled attempt to increase dues-paying membership for unions. At the college level, the governor calls for professors to use fewer assistants for classroom instruction and a three-year degree. (Here, it is assumed that also means high schools will be required to ensure college-bound student meet the once first year prerequisites whether through coursework in high schools, college campuses, or virtual schools. That in itself would not only save a lot of money but would also be a systemic great achievement.)

Many of us may like Governor’s enthusiasm and business acumen, but analysts like Mayer give us reason to doubt his ability to help Ohio innovate its way to a better future and greater prosperity. If he cannot find innovative ways to fund government, can we expect he will achieve his inspiring goals for Ohio? Unless his goals are primary for big corporate concerns, maybe not.

To read Matt Mayer’s report on Governor Kaisch’s budget, visit the Buckeye Institute website: http://www.buckeyeinstitute.org/reports.

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