Kasich failure to reach out to GOP colleagues puts tax plan in jeopardy

The big budget story this weekend was the rejection of Governor Kasich’s much-touted fracking-funded income tax cut by his Republican colleagues in the Ohio House. You may have read about Kasich’s tax plan – details of it were leaked to the Columbus Dispatch and Cleveland Plain Dealer in the days prior to announcing it at his Budget unveiling press conference last Wednesday.

Funny thing, though. It seems Kasich forgot to brief legislators.

We posted that, as of Wednesday—the day Kasich’s unveiled his tax plan to the media—according to Speaker Batchelder, legislators had not yet seen the tax proposals. The same day Senate President Niehaus confirmed, according to Gongwer (subscription required), that  he, too, “had not yet reviewed details of the governor’s proposal.”

Even Kasich admits he failed to do any outreach to members of the House and Senate to prepare them for what was to come. On Friday,  when it was revealed the House was yanking the tax provisions from the budget bill, Kasich responded:

“I think the fact is that some special interests were able to get their point of view out there maybe before we got a chance to get our point of view out there,” Kasich said.

“Before we got a chance?” Kasich has been hinting he might raise the severance tax since at least December. That means he’s had three months to start the process of reaching out to legislators—the same people who will have to do the heavy lifting of introducing, holding hearings and voting on his budget. He could have armed them with details of the  plan and talking points to respond to oil lobbyists when they come complaining. But, instead, he left them in the dark and gave the oil companies three months to convince them that even slightly higher taxes would be job-killers.

Legislators, armed with no information, could hardly be blamed for being sympathetic to industry’s claims.

Voting on a bill that arguably contains a tax increase is not a small thing to ask a bunch of pledge-signing taxophobes who will be facing voters in the fall. Doing so with no information or justification for taking on a huge lobbying force such as the oil and gas industry is just too much to ask.

And it’s not the first time. When he introduced his biennial budget in 2011, the administration was nearly two weeks late delivering the text of the legislation, forcing lawmakers to hold hearings without the benefit of having read the proposals before having to ask meaningful questions about them.

This all comes as little surprise given the fact that Kasich’s deputy legislative director, Ben Kaiser, recently left the staff to work full-time on the effort to unseat Republican Party Chair Kevin DeWine. Perhaps if the Governor’s legislative team had been doing its job instead of doing politics, they could have had an income tax cut to boast about for Kasich’s re-election.

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