COLUMBUS — Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Thursday that the state's already tenuous budget situation could become devastating if fellow Republicans in Washington follow through with a campaign promise to repeal the federal health care law without protecting Medicaid.
The 2016 presidential contender railed against actions taken “to meet some ideological goal or some campaign promise” that have the potential “to cut people off at the knees.”
“I don't know if you've noticed, but a lot of campaign promises that were made during the election have all been thrown aside. It's interesting, isn't it?” Kasich said. “So we just have to be careful that we're not fulfilling a campaign promise that puts people in the ditch.”
His remarks came at a news conference with state legislative leaders called to announce they have agreed to cut Ohio's $66.9 billion budget proposal by $400 million each fiscal year, as a result of lagging tax revenues.
Kasich and fellow Republicans, House Speaker Clifford Rosenberger and Senate President Larry Obhof, said cuts will follow a careful review of state programs. They don't have plans to tap the state's $2 billion rainy-day fund.
“When people see that a government can deal with challenges, they're impressed,” Kasich said. “You know what? Most government doesn't deal real well with challenges. They either put their head in the sand (or) they run away and take the easy way out. We're not going to do that.”
Ohio's state budget office reported Wednesday that March revenue receipts fell nearly $319 million below estimates, including a $203 million lag in tax receipts and a $116 million lag in non-tax receipts.
The Office of Budget and Management attributed the shortfall essentially to three tax areas: income taxes, which were 17 percent below projections; sales taxes, which were about 5 percent below projections; and taxes paid on out-of-state insurance policies.
Kasich used the event to promote job gains seen under his watch and his success in erasing a projected budget deficit approaching $8 billion that Ohio faced after the recession.
He and his budget director, Tim Keen, attributed lagging revenue to national economic forces, including an overall slowdown and limited growth.
State Rep. Jack Cera, of Bellaire, the ranking Democrat on the budget-writing House Finance Committee, said Kasich has broken a promise of his own: that tax cuts and adjusted budget priorities would bring economic growth and jobs to the state.
“After six years of Ohio GOP policies that continue to shift taxes to working people and local communities to fund giveaways for the wealthiest 1 percent, Ohio is now faced with a serious budget crisis, one that will force us all to pay the price for the failed economic policies of the past,” he said.
Democratic state Rep. Emilia Sykes, of Akron, described Ohio's shortfall as “self-made,” noting the $800 million set to be trimmed is less than the $2 billion sitting in the state's rainy-day fund.
Kasich said it's an emergency fund.
“We don't think you use a rainy-day fund to write a budget,” he said, adding, “The rainy-day fund should be used in the middle of the year to put out fires.”