Kasich ties give chamber report clout
State business group makes budget recommendations.
COLUMBUS — The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, the state’s largest business advocacy group with more than 4,000 members, made history last September when it endorsed Republican John Kasich for governor.
It was the first such endorsement in the chamber’s 117-year history.
The strong ties between the business group and Kasich could give the sweeping state budget changes unveiled Monday by the chamber in a report titled “Redesigning Ohio” extra clout.
“I think the Chamber of Commerce’s budget recommendations are likely to be taken very seriously by the new administration, and by the General Assembly,” said John Green, director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.
That doesn’t mean Kasich and the lawmakers will accept the entire plan proposed by the state chamber and eight metro chambers — including the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce — cautioned Green.
“Of course, elected officials have to weigh a wide variety of considerations in a budget whereas a private group can advocate its recommendation without as many considerations in mind,” he said.
Despite the state chamber’s close ties to the GOP, there’s a bipartisan flavor to the recommendations that backers say could save $1.4 billion in the next two years and billions more in the future.
To prepare the $150,000 report, the chambers worked with policy consultant David Osborne, a former adviser to Democratic Vice President Al Gore and Greg Browning, state budget director under Republican Gov. George Voinovich.
While the potential financial pain that the changes could cause to businesses, homeowners, senior citizens and state employees might take center stage, the emphasis of the report looks at making changes in how the state crafts the budget, with a potential $8 billion revenue shortfall looming in the next two years.
The change would embrace “budgeting for outcomes,” a process developed by Osborne that focuses on what matters most to citizens from state government and eliminating programs that don’t contribute to the outcomes valued by citizens.
State programs would be ranked from the most to least effective.
The report does not deal with either Medicaid, the government health insurance for the poor, or education — which consume much of the state’s revenue. The Ohio Business Roundtable is dealing with those issues separately, chamber officials said.
Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols welcomed the report, but cautioned that Kasich wouldn’t back anything that would result in a tax increase — a violation of the no-tax increase pledge Kasich signed with Americans for Tax Reform.
One “Redesigning Ohio” proposal praised by current House Finance Committee Chairman Vernon Sykes, DAkron, calls for examining tax breaks given to businesses that cost the state $7.7 billion annually. The plan would keep those that produce economic growth and end those that don’t.
A second proposal would limit the homestead real estate property tax exemption subsidy for senior citizens to those with $30,000 or less in annual income.
A third proposal would end a state subsidy for new tax levies that pays 12½ cents of every local real estate property tax dollar collected on primary residences.
Joshua Culling, state affairs manager for Americans for Tax Reform, said that changes would not be in violation of Kasich’s pledge if they were offset by other tax cuts to ensure they were revenue neutral.
The report also recommends reducing costs by closing three prisons in two years and moving nonviolent offenders from prison to nonresidential, community-based monitoring and treatment.
One of the most potentially contentious recommendations calls for ending automatic pay raises through step increases and longevity pay for state employees and basing merit bonuses on “objective performance measures.”
Brian Rothenberg, executive director of the liberal advocacy group ProgressOhio, called it “fundamentally unfair” and a result of the support public employee unions gave Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland.
Linda Woggon, chamber vice president for governmental affairs, said the proposal was “absolutely not payback.”
“It (the report) has been in the works for over a year. We briefed both campaigns,” Woggon said.
Chris Kershner, vice president of public policy and economic development for the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, said the changes are “going to take political will to accomplish.”
To read the complete “Redesigning Ohio” report visit www.ohiochamber.com. Contact this reporter at (614) 224-1608 or whershey@Dayton DailyNews.com.