Ink’s hardly dry and Kasich’s already busted the budget
Yesterday was the 14th day of the new, two-year fiscal biennium that began July 1st. Just two weeks ago, the General Assembly passed a two-year budget that provides funding for all aspects of government, based on a request drafted by the Governor’s administration, which represents his (and their) policy priorities and spending plans for the two years.
Apparently it only took fourteen days for John Kasich to realize the checkbook wasn’t big enough. Yesterday, he put legislators on the spot, demanding they tap into the Rainy Day (or “budget stabilization”) fund, which is meant for fiscal emergencies such as the recession we just experienced. Here’s what happened:
While touring a research laboratory at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus the governor asked the hospital’s CEO Dr. Steve Allen what it would take for all six Ohio children’s hospitals to work more collaboratively on medical research projects.
“Does $1 million get your attention?” the straight-faced Republican governor asked Allen. “If I commit $1 million, can that get you all to work together?”
The stunned hospital administrator smiled broadly and said yes while Kasich’s staffers looked surprised by the governor’s offer. It’s not unusual for Kasich to come with off-the-cuff, unscripted moments, and this was one of them.
Kasich then upped his offer, negotiating against himself, to $2 million. He then turned to state Rep. Anne Gonzales, a suburban Columbus Republican, who was also taking the tour, and told her that he may need to snatch the money from the state’s Budget Stabilization Fund, the so-called rainy day fund.
He would need legislative approval to take rainy day cash. Gonzales said Kasich had her vote.
“I’ll give you a couple million,” Kasich said, brokering a deal before a small throng of television cameras, reporters and hospital workers in a small research office. “But you’ve got to share it. It’s not mine, it’s the taxpayers.’”
Kasich spent the money in about 60 seconds while calling for one of his staffers to get his budget director Tim Keen on the phone. Keen was nowhere to be found. He’s vacationing with his family and didn’t answer. The governor joked later that he better let his budget director know what he had just done.
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Setting aside his lack of negotiating skills or knowledge of funds available to him, he apparently thinks the rainy-day fund is his personal piggybank. It’s actually a creation of the General Assembly, whose job it is to approve any and all appropriation of funds the Governor gets to spend.
If I were a legislator, I would be more than a little peeved that the Governor is expecting them to act as a rubber-stamp as he goes on an impromptu spending spree. It’s great publicity for him (he who just submitted a budget that CUTS hospitals, how he gets to go before the TV cameras and be the good guy), but what does it get them? After all, they just approved his budget request, which includes funding for economic development and healthcare. Why doesn’t he use money they already gave him?
So much for fiscal conservatism – Kasich couldn’t make his finances stretch for two weeks, forget about two years!
Or, perhaps Kasich thinks there is a divine power to appropriate that trumps the General Assembly. He was also quoted as saying: “This is what the Lord wants,” the governor said. “He wants us to research and find cures.”