House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton) today reacted to Governor’s Kasich’s State of the State address, saying that the reality on the ground for working people does not match the rosy picture painted by the governor Wednesday night in Marietta. The Dayton lawmaker noted that the governor especially failed to address the real state of education, the economy, healthcare and drastic state cuts to communities in Ohio.
“While the political narrative across the country seems to be ‘mission accomplished in Ohio,’ the lack of economic growth for working people, children and families in our state tell a very different story,” said Strahorn. “The truth is Ohioans cannot get ahead due to policy decisions being made at the state level. The conversation surrounding the state of Ohio does not resemble the reality of what many Ohioans are experiencing in their real lives.”
Under Gov. Kasich, Ohio’s highest unemployment rate has risen to 22nd highest in in the nation while private sector job growth has tumbled to 26th during the last year alone. And, for many struggling families, the jobs that are available do not provide enough to help make ends meet. Middle-income families in Ohio are bringing home $4,000 less than the average middle-income family in America, while an astounding 20 percent of Ohio children are living in poverty – more now than during the Great Recession.
“Taxing the middle class and giving tax breaks to the rich and big corporations do not stimulate the economy, create job growth and get hard working Ohioans back to work,” said Strahorn. “I want people to do well in Ohio, but not at the expense of the ever-shrinking, struggling middle class.”
During Kasich’s tenure, Ohio’s education rankings have tumbled from fifth in 2011 to 23rd nationally, according to the education-industry trade publication, Education Week. School funding is still lagging behind pre-recession levels, with half-a-billion dollars less flowing to public schools since 2008 while Ohio charter schools receive an historic $1 billion in taxpayer dollars.
Last year, Kasich’s top education advisor was found to be illegally scrubbing bad charter school grades while online charters overinflated student attendance data, potentially fleecing taxpayers of up to $200 million.
“We have been underfunding public schools through an unconstitutional model for decades, but continue to throw billions at charter school,” said Strahorn. “Pick-pocket policies that shift more of the responsibility to pay for critical serves onto the backs of Ohio’s middle-class Ohioans are setting our children up for failure.”
Though Kasich expanded Medicaid in Ohio under the Affordable Care Act, Ohio continues to face barriers to good health. According to the United Health Foundation, Ohio ranks 39 out of 50 nationally for population health and the average Ohioan’s life expectancy is a full year below that of the average American.
Dismal infant mortality rates have also plagued the state on Kasich’s watch, with Ohio remaining near last in the death of African American babies before they reach their first birthday. Death rates for white infants isn’t much better, with Ohio stuck among the top five states where more babies die before they reach their first birthday.
“It’s embarrassing to be known as one of the top states in the country where babies die before they reach the age of one,” said Strahorn. “Meanwhile, Kasich recently defunded Planned Parenthood and one of the programs actively combating infant mortality. Our state is moving backwards.”
Kasich also recently defunded Planned Parenthood in the state, even though polls indicate 65 percent of Ohioans opposed defunding the organization, which provides breast and cervical cancer screenings, HIV testing and infertility treatment, and infant safe sleep education for tens of thousands of Ohioans. The Kasich Administration has shuttered nearly half of state abortion clinics in Ohio since 2013.
“Kasich has consistently attacked women’s access to quality healthcare, despite the overwhelming majority of Ohioans opposing these measures,” said Strahorn. “Instead of sending women’s rights back decades, creating hardships for families to receive care, we should be focusing on clear solutions to solving the infant mortality health crisis.”
Since taking office, Gov. Kasich has cut over $1.7 billion in local community funding, money that cities and towns use to pay for police and fire, keep the roads paved and the water clean, and provide a quality public education to our children. Over 70 cities have lost at least $1 million each year due to Kasich’s budgeting and tax decisions, and 12 small cities have lost at least $2 million each, per year because the state continues to keep more revenue instead of sending it back to the local communities in which it is generated. 32 Ohio cities are on the state’s fiscal distress list because of inadequate finances needed to provide basic services and meet fiscal obligations.
“The budget has called for stripping communities of funds that they need to maintain, storing them away in a Rainy Day Fund, and for many of these communities it is officially a rainy day,” said Strahorn. “When we invest in our state, the rich do even better. The only difference is that so do working people.”
Strahorn highlighted that in contrast to the governor making a pit-stop from the campaign to come to Marietta, Democratic lawmakers are hard at work at the statehouse pushing legislation that will have a real positive impact on working families. In January, Democratic leaders of the House and Senate announced their “Focus on The Future” agenda; an eight-bill package Democrats say will ensure economic stability for the next generation of working people in Ohio.
Here is what other House Democratic lawmakers are saying about the real state of the state:
“Since 2011, Ohio’s standing in public education has plummeted under Kasich’s administration. State cuts to local communities have left schools without the resources required to provide a quality education to our children, while Ohio’s charter industry continues to fail our children and leave a black mark on the state of education in Ohio,” said Rep. Michele Lepore-Hagan (D-Youngstown). “The national media may have bought into ‘Candidate Kasich, the moderate’, but Ohioans, especially those in the Valley, know the real Governor Kasich.”
“Governor Kasich has been boasting about the ‘Ohio Miracle’ as he cites lower unemployment and a growing Rainy Day Fund. But whose ‘miracle’ is he referring to,” said Rep. Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati). “Instead of allocating funds for basic local needs— police and fire departments, infrastructure and public education—Governor Kasich continues to hoard money in Columbus.”
“While touring the nation, touting a balanced budget, Governor Kasich has failed to explain that the budget was balanced on the backs of working Ohioans,” said Rep. Greta Johnson (D-Akron). “Despite communities across Ohio continuing to struggle financially to meet basic safety and infrastructure needs, the Local Government Fund and public education dollars continue to be neglected by the state’s leadership. To know the real state of the state, one doesn’t need to look farther than the drastic cuts to police, fire, libraries, schools, and other vital services in our own backyards.”
“Our state’s economic growth continues to lag the nation, and Ohio workers have yet to see gains in wages and employment,” said Rep. Kathleen Clyde (D-Kent). “The state of our state sees schools that remain chronically underfunded and local communities that are still reeling from record cuts in order to balance this administration’s checkbook. And in a purely political move, Governor Kasich defunded Planned Parenthood, undercutting Ohio’s women and threatening their access to care in the process. So when Governor Kasich says there is an ‘Ohio miracle,’ I can only ask, ‘where?’”
“Ohio residents and Ohio communities need help. While jobs have returned, the recovery has yet to reach our middle class. Families are working longer hours, but with no proof on their paychecks,” said Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid). “In addition, Ohio communities continue to face significant budget challenges due to the governor's raid on the Local Government Fund. As a matter of fact, 85% of his $2 billion Rainy Day Fund comes from the Local Government Fund. That's not leadership, that's larceny.”
“Governor Kasich left much to be desired in learning about how he plans to combat the harmful algal bloom problem that plagues Northwestern Ohio,” said Rep. Michael Sheehy (D-Oregon). “Now is the time for Governor Kasich to lead on this issue and to make Ohio an example for the Great Lakes region, and the country, by having a plan to protect one of our most precious resources.”
“It’s sad to say that Ohioans continue to feel the burden of ineffective GOP policies that have left many hard working Ohioans behind,” said Rep. Emilia Sykes (D-Akron). “Kasich’s Ohio seems to be advancing quite well, but the real Ohio is suffering at the bottom of the nation in health rankings, all while maintaining one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the country, which disproportionately affects the black community. I am hopeful that the general assembly can get back to working for the people of this state.”
“With economic problems like stagnating wages, unaffordable higher education, and— locally—the decimation of our all-important steel industry, I was really hoping the Governor would have brought forward some new creative solutions to the huge problems Ohioans are facing,” said Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain). “Instead, we heard more of the same message we’ve been hearing for months. The Governor touted his tax shifts that disproportionately help the rich, while hurting working people. It would be great if the only solution Ohio Republicans offered actually worked, but far too often, they've allowed things to go from bad to worse.”