Governor-elect John Kasich (R-OH) is riding into Ohio’s capital on a platform of fiscal responsibility and huge tax cuts (without seeing the contradiction between the two). Ohio is already facing a $6 billion to $8 billion deficit, and Kasich’s plan to eliminate the state income tax — which brings in nearly half of the state’s revenue — would cost about $8.3 billion next year alone.
According to the Columbus Dispatch, the Republican legislature that will be working with Kasich is very much of the same mind, with potentially devastating effects on the way for the state’s education system. Incoming state Senate President Tom Niehaus has warned school districts to prepare for huge cuts, as “the GOP majority will keep its promise to not raise taxes,” no matter what:
Sen. Tom Niehaus, a New Richmond Republican expected to be the next Senate president, said last week that there will be a projected shortfall of $6 billion to $8 billion in the next state budget and that he is confident the GOP majority will keep its promise to not raise taxes — meaning that deep cuts will be necessary to balance the budget. Asked if some district officials preparing financial forecasts and deciding whether to put levies on the ballot were correct to assume a 15 to 20 percent cut in state aid, Niehaus said that’s what he would plan for if he were in their shoes.
Ohio has already cut both K-12 and higher education funding in response to the Great Recession. To put the new cut that the GOP has proposed in perspective, a 10 percent cut in school funding would amount to districts losing $1 billion. But the Ohio GOP is standing firm against any raising any new revenue, and Kasich himself believes that broadening the tax base or closing tax loopholes qualifies as an unacceptable tax increase.
At the same time that the GOP legislature is telling school districts to prepare for huge cuts, Kasich may also be endangering Ohio’s $400 million Race to the Top grant — awarded as part of the administration’s education reform effort — due to his insistence on dumping some of his predecessor’s policies, which led to Ohio winning the grant in the first place. So Ohio’s schools may be taking a pair of hits from the incoming class of lawmakers.