Kasich and House put Ohio on sustainable path after predecessors failed

Sunday, May 8, 2011 03:15 AM

Considering the budget nightmare facing Gov. John Kasich and the legislature, the measure passed by the House last week is a remarkable achievement.

An $8 billion budget hole has been eliminated, and though the pain of cuts will felt throughout the state, Ohio will be on a sounder fiscal footing in two years when the next biennial budget is put together.

Equally remarkable - in a negative way - are those who slam this achievement. That's because some of them had a hand in digging the hole from which Kasich is trying to pull the state.

Former House speaker and now House Minority Leader Armond Budish criticizes the painful cuts included in Kasich's budget proposal.

But those cuts are necessary precisely because Budish and former Gov. Ted Strickland didn't do their job - truly balancing the state's budget - when they controlled the governor's office and the House two years ago.

Faced with a vast gulf between revenue and what they wanted to spend, Budish and Strickland should have been the ones making budget cuts in the 2010-11 budget.

Instead, they papered over the shortfall by grasping at every accounting trick and one-time revenue source available - and, in the stimulus-fueled environment, there were plenty - to avoid the fundamental restructuring that Ohio's budget needed.

That left their successors with an $8 billion time bomb.

Kasich and House Republicans deserve immense credit for producing a budget proposal that deals with that reality rather than finding yet another way to put it off.

Budish disagrees with Kasich's priorities, he says. When he was speaker of the House, Budish had every opportunity - the duty, in fact - to set the priorities he now claims to stand for.

Had he led a charge to reset government spending to align with the resources available, he could have influenced the future more to his liking. He didn't.

Budget cuts will impel governments at all levels to streamline and find innovative approaches to delivering the services.

Kasich has attempted to offer solutions along with the pain, by giving local governments more control over payrolls through collective-bargaining reform and encouraging long-overdue reform of public-construction bidding practices.

While this is a difficult time to hold public office, it also is a transformative and historic time, bringing with it the opportunity to shape a more sustainable relationship between taxpayers and the government they support.

Dealing with hard problems instead of kicking them down the road is leadership.

Budish's too-late carping adds nothing to the effort and sheds glaring light on his own negligence.


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