|DEBT CLOCK: Ohio Gov. John Kasich rolled out his presidential platform in front of a debt counter that’s spinning faster because of his Obamacare expansion|
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has spent the past four years growing government, is trying to rebrand himself as a small-government reformer.
The Kasich Action Plan, which his presidential campaign released Thursday, emphasizes balancing the federal budget. Kasich plans to accomplish this by shifting education, welfare and infrastructure programs to the states.
Tailored to draw support from fans of his House Budget Committee chairmanship in the 1990s, the plan would attempt to spur job growth by cutting income tax rates and simplifying the tax code.
Chris Edwards, the libertarian Cato Institute’s director of tax policy studies, told Ohio Watchdog.org the Kasich Action Plan would be more compelling if not for Kasich’s record as governor.
While Kasich calls for reducing the number of federal income tax brackets from seven to three via legislation he will propose within his first 100 days as president, Ohio still has nine income tax brackets.
“The plan sounds very fiscally conservative, but Kasich’s been a big spender in Ohio,” Edwards said. “We gave him a grade of D on the last Cato report card. He’s a pretty good tax-cutter, but general fund Ohio spending has gone up 35 percent since he’s been in office.”
Kasich increased Ohio’s General Revenue Fund spending by $4.6 billion in his first two biennial budgets, with spending growth accelerating each year.
“When he was in Congress, he was great. He was very much a fiscal conservative,” Edwards said before noting Ohio’s Medicaid costs “are soaring” because of Kasich’s embrace of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion.
“In Ohio we reined in Medicaid costs,” Kasich wrote in a Washington Post op-ed Thursday. But his Obamacare expansion has made Ohio more reliant on federal spending, which he promises to cut as president.
Kasich increased Medicaid spending 33 percent during his first term — driven by more than $4 billion in Obamacare expansion money in 18 months.
Ohio’s total Medicaid spending was $17.7 billion when Kasich took office; it was $23.5 billion in the 2015 fiscal year ending in June. Due to Obamacare expansion, Ohio’s Medicaid costs are expected to hit $28.2 billion by 2017.
“Education is a local issue,” Kasich wrote in his op-ed. “We need high standards, but they are not Washington’s business.”
Kasich supports the federally backed Common Core State Standards Initiative, and he opposes an Ohio House proposal to allow local school boards to opt out of using Common Core math and language arts standards.
“If we want to get serious about economic growth, we need less government and more ‘us,'” the governor asserted in his Washington Post column. Four years after the creation of Kasich’s taxpayer-funded JobsOhio, Ohio’s job growth ranks in the bottom 10 nationally.
At the Kasich Action Plan unveiling in Nashua, New Hampshire, Kasich stressed the importance of leadership — a theme he revisits each time Republicans in the Ohio General Assembly resist his policies.
“We need to come together to do what’s in the best interest of our country: Lead. Sometimes it’s lonely,” Kasich said on Thursday. “Lead.”
“I’ve never been uncomfortable with traveling a lonely road. I think that’s what leaders do,” Kasich said in April 2012, when he began pushing for higher severance taxes on oil and natural gas drilling.
In addition to fighting for a severance tax hike, the Republican governor has fought Republican legislative supermajorities for increases in the state Commercial Activity Tax, sales tax and tobacco tax.
“I’m a change agent, and when you’re a change agent you just expect to walk a lonely road at times,” Kasich said after the Ohio House stripped Obamacare expansion from his budget in 2013.
Teasing the Kasich Action Plan’s release in a Wednesday interview with Chuck Todd on MSNBC, Kasich lamented the idea that politicians “all want to spend.”
Kasich said President George W. Bush and Republicans in Congress “blew a $5 trillion surplus” at the turn of the century because of a “lack of leadership.”
“It happened because, frankly, they weren’t vetoing enough stuff,” Kasich said, because “they just didn’t care that much about spending, because when you stand up on spending, and you block programs, you make people angry.”
In 2013, Kasich vetoed the Ohio General Assembly’s ban on implementing Obamacare expansion and then expanded the program without legislative approval.
Kasich had said Medicaid expansion would “stick states with large and unsustainable costs” — in the end, he did exactly as President Obama and hospital lobbyists wanted.
The governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment about the conflicts between his record and his presidential campaign proposals.