As the U.S. House Budget chairman, former Rep. John Kasich played a lead role in helping the federal government balance its budget for the first time in 30 years.
Faced with an $8 billion state budget deficit, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland did very little.
That epitomizes the difference between Ohio's two gubernatorial candidates in the Nov. 2 General Election. Therein lies the reason voters should choose Kasich.
Kasich has exuded dynamic energy during this campaign and he backs it up with an ambitious game plan to help the state recover from a disaster. Like he did when he was the House Budget chairman, he'll need to carry out his vow to reach across party lines and make the tough decisions necessary to shave $8 billion from Ohio's next budget, which must be completed early in 2011.
His expectation of balancing the budget without raising taxes might be overly optimistic, but nonetheless he will beat the anti-tax drum loudly. His JobsOhio plan of using a panel of specialists to aggressively alter Ohio's business climate sounds promising and, in the long term, his expectation of driving the state income tax down to zero is more plausible.
When the state makes its painful cuts, local governments, including school districts, will undoubtedly take a hit. Kasich appears ready to more convincingly compel the local governments to share services and in exchange he's ready to lift unfunded mandates.
Strickland has been as ineffective as Kasich is promising. Instead of spending the last two years solving the $8 billion projected deficit, he allowed the state to live off a federal government bailout and one-time revenue sources while leaving the budget woes for the next term and the next general assembly.
Despite losing 400,000 jobs during his four years in office, he failed to appoint a leader to the Ohio Department of Development for seven months. During the seven months without a Department of Development director, many businesses fled to other states, especially on the west side of the state where several moved to Indiana, which more aggressively courted their employment. He did nothing to stop one of the state's biggest employers, NCR, from using stimulus money to move to Georgia.
His attempt to change Ohio's prevailing wage and union preferences for public construction projects failed, meaning taxpayers will continue overpaying billions of dollars.
After promising to be the education governor if elected four years ago, Strickland unveiled an evidence-based school funding plan that had a longer school year and all-day kindergarten as its hallmark, but resulted in no measurable changes and no mechanism to pay for his proposals. In fact, the Ohio Department of Education has told school district treasurers to brace for 10 percent cuts in the next budget.
Strickland refuses to explain why he ignores performance audits that would make state departments more efficient. He also ignored the inspector general's reports on potential corruption at the Department of Public Safety and the Ohio School Facilities Commission. He flip-flopped on gambling and the state now has rules that will result in big profits for casinos and little revenue for local governments.
Strickland claims to have some accomplishments. His administration was helpful in local economic development breakthroughs at the General Motors Lordstown complex and V&M Star. But most of the credit for these projects goes to union cooperation at GM and steel pipe demand created by the Marcellus Shale.
The governor continues to support the Third Frontier and to move Ohio in a clean energy direction. Ohio also has made advancements in getting universities and professors to partner more with private enterprise for research and development.
A lot also can be said for how the recession contributed to Ohio's wrecked economy and budget nightmare. But nothing can be said for how Strickland reacted.
It's time to make a change. Kasich's House record, his strategy and his enthusiasm give Ohio its best chance to turn around.