Local elected officials want Gov. John Kasich to stop talking out of both sides of his mouth about rainy day funds.
While Mr. Kasich has successfully built up a $2 billion budgetary reserve for Ohio, he’s simultaneously cut the revenue-sharing Local Government Fund and demanded counties, municipalities, and school districts in Ohio make up the difference.
It’s understandable that the governor is serious about protecting Ohio’s rainy day fund. His predecessor drained that fund during the Great Recession, and Mr. Kasich takes seriously his responsibility to leave the state’s reserves ready for the next crisis.
But he should know that the same taxpayers fill the analogous funds for local school districts, municipalities, and counties. Those governing bodies need reserves for the same purpose the state needs one. And in the cases of small, poor communities, filling those local funds is even more of a burden for taxpayers than filling the statewide rainy day fund.
While it’s reasonable for Mr. Kasich to demand efficiency from local government officials — he’s called on communities to use collective purchasing and other cost-saving measures — he should understand the state has a role to play in making sure communities can provide essential services. And the governor isn’t just demanding that local governments get smart about saving money, he’s demanding that local elected officials maximize their own tax revenue before criticizing a lack of state aid.
Along with being unfair, this is just politically silly. It’s not reasonable to think a county commissioner, city council member, or school board member is going to suggest raising taxes before calling on the state to restore cuts in aid. It’s also politically silly to think voters don’t see where the burden falls when the local governments are asked to do more with less from the state.
The governor asks why he has to hear about revenue-sharing and the Local Government Fund every time he turns around. The answer is that the state has an essential role in funding basic services such as schools, infrastructure, and public safety at the local level. When the governor cuts those funds — and turns his back on the localities — while trumpeting a healthy rainy day fund, it is bad governance and bad faith.
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