Gov. John Kasich gets a chance beginning this week to revive his proposed biennial budget. It was eviscerated by the state House while the governor stood idly by. Now it goes to the Ohio Senate for debate.
Mind you, Kasich’s budget is still terrible. It is full of unneeded tax cuts and giveaways to corporate special interests. But it isn’t as bad as the House version, which was driven by ideology instead of common sense and fairness.
The House budget deletes the extension of Medicaid health coverage to 366,000 people, most of whom work but still fall below the poverty line.
It allocates much less for elementary and secondary school funding throughout the state than the governor wanted, though the House version might actually bring slightly more funding to Toledo.
Finally, the House budget reduces the ability of Planned Parenthood to qualify for state funds to administer women’s health services other than abortion. It is really a legislative act of harassment.
Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio, says the House budget will restrict not only access to contraceptives, but also to cancer screenings.
Contraception can prevent abortion. What sort of zealotry bans the prevention of pregnancy in the name of stopping abortion? What sort of fanaticism prevents cancer screenings in the name of “life”?
Rejecting the Medicaid expansion is also a matter of zealotry. To the far right, President Obama, the Affordable Care Act, and compassion for the poor constitute the political axis of evil.
Politicians who are more interested in serving an extreme ideology than the people of Ohio control the Ohio House. The question is whether the governor and the state Senate are willing to stand up to extremists in the House. Traditionally, the Senate has played a tempering role. And the governor is not a fanatic but a skilled career politician. He can make a difference here — if he wants to do so.
To ask Mr. Kasich to fight for his own budget would seem the least the people should demand from the leader of Ohio’s government.
Or are the governor and Republican legislators so afraid of primary opposition that they will sacrifice the finances of state government, the welfare of the working poor and their children, and the health of Ohio women to appease the extremists in their own party.
This is a test of leadership for the governor. Stay tuned.