It took Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) less than three months to use state-owned private planes more than former Gov. Ted Strickland (D) used them in 13 months, according to a new report from the Dayton Daily News. Despite unveiling a budget full of painful cuts to vital programs, including education and health care, Kasich has cost taxpayers $31,400 for 20 total trips in his first 81 days in office. In contrast, Strickland spent $31,849 in his first 13 months in office. Ohioans are spending $387.65 a day to support Kasich’s plane habit, compared to just $77.58 a day for Strickland.
But during his 2010 campaign against Strickland, Kasich, through spokesperson Rob Nichols, criticized the incumbent’s use of the plane and questioned whether funding the plane was justifiable at all:
“But because [Strickland] likes hitting the snooze button, he makes a small army of people fire up his plane, get it ready and then fly it from one airport to another so he won’t have to drive an extra 15 minutes to the airport. … Putting aside the wasted money and extra wear and tear, could the guy do something more arrogant? … Frankly, there needs to be a closer review of whether the plane’s cost can even still be justified at all.”
But now Nichols has changed his tune, saying the plane is vital to keeping jobs in Ohio:
“The lesson of the loss of NCR and its 1,600 jobs is that keeping — and growing — jobs and companies in Ohio requires a governor with the initiative to get out of the Statehouse, go meet face-to-face with leaders across the state to see what they need to be successful and then work to help them hire more Ohioans. If the trade-off for that degree of personal engagement and the jobs it seeks to create for our communities is some sniping that the governor gets around the state too much, we’re comfortable with it.”
But according to the Daily News, several of Kasich’s trips haven’t involved jobs at all. He’s flown across the state to Canton and Cincinnati to announce staff appointments; to Youngstown, Akron, and Toledo to speak to chambers of commerce and Rotary Clubs; and to Washington D.C. to meet with other governors.
Kasich’s unprecedented spending on travel at the beginning of his term comes during a period when he passed a budget that cut services beneficial to low- and middle-income Ohioans. With the state facing an $8 billion budget gap, Kasich’s budget featured steep cuts in education, children’s health, public libraries, and local governments. His union-busting legislation, SB 5, made cuts from public employee pensions and has widespread effects on teachers and public safety officials, including firefighters and police officers. And he’s attempting to save more money by making cuts to the state’s prison system, which is among the program he would like to privatize.
While Kasich cut services and programs important to millions of Ohioans, his own office wasn’t nearly as unfortunate. He pays his staff more than Strickland paid his, and the governor’s office had to swallow only $176,000 in budget cuts — a far cry from the $3.14 billion cut from education over the next two years.
Kasich tells Ohio voters that a little shared sacrifice now will ensure that “kids have a future in this state. That they can have jobs in this state and that your family can be prosperous.” But judging by his actions, everyone has to share in the sacrifice except the governor himself.