Opinion | Students should remember the importance of Ohio Statehouse
Published: Thursday, October 25, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 25, 2012 22:10
In 2010, Ohio Statehouse Republicans rode the national tea party wave to a huge victory of their own.
The House of Representatives flipped from a 53-46 Democratic advantage to a massive 59-40 Republican majority. In the Senate, Republicans added two extra seats shoring up their majority to 23-10. And finally, Governor John Kasich eked out a narrow win over former Governor Ted Strickland.
The state’s budget was in shambles after the disorganized Strickland years, and the Kasich administration quickly discovered that they faced an $8 billion budget shortfall.
This was a challenge the former House Budget committee chairman turned Governor Kasich, who is well known for his love of budgeting and getting into the legislative weeds, was uniquely qualified to tackle.
Working with Speaker William Batchelder’s self-identified ‘caveman caucus’ in the House, the biennial budget ended at a slight surplus with no tax hikes, but not without draconian cuts in important areas like education. Also many have criticized the governor for, among other things, putting local governments in a bind because of the cuts.
The controversial budget coupled with the highly damaging fight over Senate Bill 5, and the more damaging subsequent Issue 2 referendum vote, have placed Ohio Statehouse Republicans in a politically perilous position at the governor’s midterm election.
However, the polarized electorate is unlikely to repudiate the legislators at the ballot box, and Republicans were able to redraw the district maps, shoring up their safe seats and gaining a few more in the process. Put all the factors together, and the party is not in fear of losing a large chunk of seats in the House or Senate this cycle.
And with everyone’s eyes on the Presidential election, it’s important to think about our state government, which is also highly important and often overlooked.
Because although a change in power is unlikely at the Statehouse this fall, after the election, legislators will begin yet another biennial budget — this year, they’re already planning to talk tax reform, with more cuts sure to come.
This is the budget Governor Kasich will be running for reelection on. As a result, it’s likely to going to avoid hot button issues.
Thus far this cycle, the Governor has been forced to do a delicate dance, playing up his success in turning around Ohio’s economy without giving the President any credit. His strategy has been to talk about doing it all despite headwinds from Washington — it makes for awkward messaging.
After this election, look for Governor Kasich to take a more aggressive stance in playing up his success — he’s a highly ambitious politician and a successful reelection is critical to his political future, which, if his standing improves in Ohio, could include another Presidential run in 2014.
Senate President Thomas Niehaus is term limited and retiring, and Senator Keith Faber is poised to step into Niehaus’s shoes. Losing Niehaus is a huge blow to the institution — there isn’t a more able legislator on Capitol Square, and the Senate will miss his leadership.
And while Faber is a shrewd politician, he is unlikely to provide the steady leadership necessary to build workable legislative coalitions.
Speaker Batchelder will be serving out his final term and with no clear favorite emerging thus far on who will take over, budget season could be an interesting time to see who is posturing for the top job in the House. The job is without a doubt the second most powerful in our state government, and Speaker Batchelder has done it well — all 59 House Republicans voted for the final version of the last budget.
The political situation at the Statehouse is fascinating, and while it may not be as high profile, remember — these folks are also making big decisions that affect each of our every day lives.