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The Ohio House Dems budget mistake

And the Republican's opportunity

Cross posted to Ohio Politics Online.

I think the Democrat Majority in the Ohio House of Representatives made a big mistake when they passed their bloated and unrealistic budget.  Here is what I said at the time:

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.

Now some see this as a giant game of chicken where the loser get blamed for cutting important programs, not caring about education, etc. This theory sees the House budget as a bargaining chip.  Sure, it will get cut back but they start from a position of strength. But I see this as a big mistake on the part of the Democrats.

To see why see below.The Democrats control the House and the Governorship.  What they needed to do was pass a budget that was pushing the envelop a bit but still largely held the line.  If Governor Strickland introduced a budget and the House passed it largely unchanged then the pressure would  be on the Senate – controlled by Republicans – to do something similar; to not rock the boat in these difficult times.

But the problem is that Democrats have a lot of interest groups to please and they didn’t think cutting programs was the way to go.  So they ignored the first rule of holes which is to stop digging.

And as soon as they passed the smoke and mirrors budget, of course, the economic and revenue forecasts got worse.  As a result the both the House Dems and Strickland looked like they were trying to pull a fast one in order to sneak a budget through that did pass the smell test.

This in turn gave the Senate the chance to play the responsible adult and pare back the budget and cut any ambitious reorganizations because the uncertain climate simply doesn’t allow for such grand schemes.

So now we are getting closer and closer to when the game of chicken is going to be decided.  And once again the revenue news is U-L-G-Y:

Ohio lawmakers already hard-pressed to come up with a workable budget plan for the next biennium were socked again Thursday when the Strickland administration released new revenue projections.

The legislative conference committee was told that the state faces a $3.2 billion shortfall for fiscal 2010 and 2011. That’s more than $2 billion more than the earlier projections that the House and Senate used to craft their budget proposals.

So here is the chance for Republicans to once again make the Dems pay for their mistake.

My advice: don’t back down.  Hold the line as much as you possibly can on spending, on charter schools, and on education.  The response should always be: “The House passed an unrealistic, and borderline deceptive, budget.  The Senate brought us back in line with what is possible and prudent.”

The labor unions are mad at Governor Strickland for cutting their pay and budgets.  Some members just might sit on the sidelines for his re-election.  Don’t believe the social services activists who will have you believe voters will revolt if you cut programs.

Voters will recognize responsibility when they see it.  The Democrats revealed their mindset when they were given power: spend, spend, spend no matter the circumstances or consequences.

And we all know what the consequences are – even Strickland got angry about it when the media raised the issue – tax increases.

Republicans this is what you were put on earth to do: oppose ridiculous and unsustainable spending and resist tax increases.  This is your chance to prove to the grassroots that you still remember what this means; that you still recognize the difference between the parties.

The Dems slipped up.  It is up to you to take advantage.

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