Ohio GOP Sen. Defends Budget That Favors The Rich: Wealthy ‘Suffer Along With The Rest Of Us’

With Gov. John Kasich (R-OH) at the helm, the Ohio GOP is successfully kneecapping the legs of Ohio’s middle class. The party’s first six months in power brought collective bargaining rights, the minimum wage, the prevailing wage, and education under the knife in the name of an $8 billion state budget deficit and “shared sacrifice.” Last week, the GOP-led state Senate passed Kasich’s $55.7 billion budget — the chief weapon in Kasich’s arsenal “that whacks schools, local governments, higher education, nursing homes, day care for children of low-income parents, the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel, children’s hospitals and work-support programs for the poor.”

However, as the Columbus Dispatch noted, one group is notably exempt from this “shared sacrifice”: the wealthy. State Republicans coupled massive program cuts with an elimination of the estate tax for Ohio’s richest 8 percent of estates, restored $85 million in school funding for mostly affluent districts, and cut the state income tax so that “the largest dollar reductions” will go to “those with an annual income above $200,000.” TP Economy editor Pat Garofalo noted that measures like the estate tax elimination actually shift taxes on to the middle class.

When asked exactly “how the rich are being asked to sacrifice in the budget,” GOP lawmakers struggled to justify their lopsided favoritism. Kasich simply asked, “Why we would want to punish success?” and House Speaker William Batchelder (R) simply didn’t answer. Ohio Senate President Tom Niehaus (R) “searched for an answer” and landed on the idea that though the wealthy are receiving significant tax breaks, “they still suffer along with the rest of us“:

“There are no specific policies targeting the wealthy, but as taxpayers of the state of Ohio, they suffer along with the rest of us,” the New Richmond Republican said. “Some might argue they suffer less, but they still suffer along with the rest of us, whether it’s in opportunities that exist, and inability to expand businesses in a tough economic climate.”

When House Speaker William G. Batchelder, R-Medina, was asked about the burden on the rich, he gave a long reply that didn’t answer the question.

However, Gov. John Kasich did have a response for sparing the rich.

“What we’ve been doing is driving successful people out of Ohio, which has put Ohio in a ditch,” Kasich said. “I don’t know why we would want to punish success in Ohio.”

Athens County Jobs and Family Services director Jack Frech failed to see the “shared sacrifice” Kasich insisted upon to hustle through his budget. Overseeing programs for the poor in an Appalachian county with a 33 percent poverty rate, Frech said Republicans “consider themselves to have done a great job because they haven’t raised taxes and they didn’t cut human services as much as they could have.” “But they’re bad. They’re terrible,” he said. “There are people struggling to survive out there every day.”

Senate Republicans, however, nodded to the budget’s 5 percent pay cut for lawmakers beginning in 2013 as a sign of communal suffering. According to the Dispatch, the lawmakers “called that a gesture of ‘shared sacrifice’ to the people throughout the state affected by budget cuts.”