We have reached the moment I knew was coming. I said it when Strickland pulled his flip-flop on slots:
I have a suspicion this is a setup. There will be a battle over gambling and when it doesn’t work, the response will be we have to raise taxes. This is a last ditch effort to avoid tax increases. If Ted Strickland was a leader he would stick to his principles and both oppose increased gambling and hold the line against taxes.
And the Governor has just made his first move in this little game:
Senate President Bill M. Harris, R-Ashland, has said he is OK with Strickland implementing slots on his own, but he has refused to support a legislative vote. A week's worth of meetings have not brought the two sides closer together, so Strickland has tossed the ball into Harris' court.
"I believe that he and the Senate Majority have an obligation to say what taxes they would increase or what services they would further reduce in order to balance the budget," Strickland said in a statement.
"I look forward to hearing from the Senate what other source of revenue, or what additional cuts, they will suggest in the three remaining days of the legislative conference committee. I continue to be available around the clock and will remain accessible to the legislative leadership."
See how that works? Propose something that you know full well is opposed by the legislature and the public (and yourself it until just a minute ago) and then act disappointed when they don't go along.
Next step is blaming the GOP. If they do the stupid thing and raise taxes you know the base will be angry and the message of the party will be blurred. If they propose the cuts then you can blame them for the angry constituents of whatever programs get cut.
Strickland filled the budget with gambling money because he didn't want to be on the hook for those cuts and he is trying to maneuver some of the blame on to the plate of Bill Harris and Republicans.
And you know what they should do? They should suck it up and cut. The immediate backlash may seem harsh but in the long run a GOP who raises taxes is not going to be in the majority. 2010 is a ways off. Do what you know is right and keep your foundational prerogatives straight.
Ohio got in this very position by refusing to make the hard choices; by being risk averse and satisfied with the status quo of high taxes and bloated government (and when they did cut taxes they story line of Taft incompetence and "corruption" was already in place and the base was turned off). You have a chance to change that by sticking to your guns and then running on making the tough choices and moving the state forward on your basic principles: low taxes, effective government, and economic growth based on free market ideas not government programs.
This may seem like a giant game of chicken over the future of the state. So be it. Embrace it. Make Strickland blink It is not only the right thing to do for Ohio, and for the future of your party, but it is the best gift you can give GOP candidates for office in 2010.