During his campaign for office last fall, ThinkProgress exposed the absurdity of Governor John Kasich’s (R-OH) promise to fix his state’s $8 billion budget shortfall and improve Ohio’s economic performance through massive corporate tax breaks. Since entering office last month, with an inaugural ceremony sponsored by corporate donors, Kasich has repeatedly called for lower taxes for corporations even while eliminating private sector jobs, demanding 20 percent cuts in the state’s education budget and advancing a dubious scheme to put the state’s jobs program in the hands of private interests.
Kasich has already shown that he is not afraid to sacrifice his constituents jobs and his state’s Race to the Top funding while pursuing his pro-tax cut agenda. But yesterday he reached a new low when he proposed privatizing the state’s turnpike and using the revenue to fund a new round of tax cuts. In a twenty-minute extemporaneous talk, the Governor told Cleveland business leaders that:
He might find money for incentives to new businesses by privatizing state assets; he used the Ohio Turnpike as, he emphasized, a hypothetical example. He said he could lease the Ohio Turnpike for $3 billion and use most of that money, after repaying $600 million in outstanding turnpike debt, to attract business to Ohio.
“I’m not telling you this is going to happen,” he said, but it was just one of the ways his administration might raise a kitty of money for business expansion in a time of budget belt-tightening.
Mr. Kasich also suggested that he might favor what he called a “capital gains differential” to keep wealthy shareholders from moving out of state.
Although Kasich insists that the proposal is a “hypothetical,” this isn’t the first time he’s proposed it in public without any prompting. Furthermore, the turnpike scheme fits well with what has already become the two dominant features of Kasich’s administration: ineffective privatization schemes and unfunded corporate tax breaks. A recent poll shows that only 30 percent of Ohioans would support a privatization of the turnpike even if it was used to balance the budget.
What is most unfortunate about Kasich’s latest proposals is how little it would do to actually create jobs and revive Ohio’s economy. As ThinkProgress has reported, the types of tax breaks that Kasich offered in Cleveland to help the state “get its mojo back” have a poor job growth record, but are excellent at increasing deficits. As Plunderblund’s Brian Hester writes, “Kasich cares more about protecting corporate welfare and giving himself and his rich corporate buddies more tax cuts than he does the people who are actually suffering from this economy.”