These are difficult times. Everyone is having to tighten their belt and make sacrifices. Except for the federal government who under Barack Obama seems intent on spending itself into oblivion. Usually states can't follow this route because their constitutions require a balanced budget. But in hard times states often push the envelope using one time funds, fee increases, and any other gimmicks they can find to make the budget process easier. This generally cuts across party lines as few are in the mood for drastic cuts.
That said, I think the Ohio House is pushing this tendency to the limit and past it. I am not sure you can find a more uncertain economic environment than the current one in recent memory. So prudence requires that you limit future damage by being cautious, right? Ohio Democrats answered that question with a resounding "Heck, No!" I guess they are taking their cues from President Obama.
The Democrat led Ohio House passed the $54 billion budget bill along party lines and sent it on to the GOP controlled Ohio Senate. What is shocking is that they added $622 million to the budget Gov. Strickland introduced and used even more one time monies. The bill now includes $7 billion in one-time state and federal dollars! And to get as much wiggle room as they could, they used the most optimistic economic forecasts they could find. And to top it all off the budget includes fee increases, not tax increase of course, to the tune of $1 billion dollars.
So with future growth uncertain, Ohio's economic climate enemeic, and a budget crisis looming in the future for anyone with the sense to see it, what do Ohio Democrats do? Why increase spending, use more one time funds, and increase fees! Not too mention their attempt to destroy charter schools and fix education by simply hiring more teachers and union members.
As I have noted before, say what you will about the GOP, but Democrats simply have no idea how to stimulate economic development. All they know is more government all the time. Good times? Spend like there is no tomorrow? Bad times? Spend like there is no tomorrow!
There are two positives, however, that may come out of this. One, we are seeing the Republican leadership of the Ohio House begin to reconnect to the the base. This budget was a sweet spot where everyone could get on board and make the argument for less spending and less regulation. It has focused the attention of the caucus and given them a chance to prove they can lead.
Two, the budget now heads to the GOP led Senate where, one would hope, the damage can be limited. This too gives the GOP a chance to lead and make their case to the voters that they are the responsible ones when it comes to the budget.
The GOP must take advantage of this opportunity to remind the voters why they did not entrust the Democrats with power before. That if given the chance the Dems will simply attempt to spend money the state doesn't have and pay the consequences later. They will look to reward their interest groups and increase the power of government and limit the ability of the individual. And none of this is going to bring growth and opportunity to Ohio's economy.
If the Ohio GOP plays it smart this budget process, and the general economic slowdown, will provide a perfect object lesson for voters on the nature of Democratic policy. Let's hope they don't waste it.