Saying he didn’t need to prove his Irishness with the middle and last names of FitzGerald and O’Donnell, likely Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald was decked out in a blue suit and tie for his appearance before Lucas County Democrats at their annual St. Patrick’s Day Jiggs Lunch on Thursday.
He said he was planning to change into a green jacket for another St. Patrick’s event later that night and said, “I’m Irish enough I don’t have to wear [green],” he said, saying his great-grandparents immigrated to the Cleveland area from Ireland. He was born and raised in Indianapolis and moved to Cuyahoga County in the 1980s.
Mr. FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive who announced this week he has formed a committee to explore a run for governor, blasted Republican Gov. John Kasich over his budget plan and his effort to keep public funds paid into the state’s private development agency from being audited.
He headlined the annual event attended by about 200 people at the Greek Orthodox church downtown. Meal tickets were $15.
“The state budget was balanced by unbalancing your budget,” Mr. FitzGerald said. “The state budget was balanced by cutting your police officers, your teachers, your firefighters, your EMS workers. They’re using your money. They’re taking local money, and they just transferred it into the state budget.”
Noting that the state budget is gaining revenue, he criticized the administration for proposing an income tax cut rather than “giving it back to the school districts that they cut it out of” or to “Toledo and the suburbs of Toledo to try to make up for some of the money they stole from you in the first place.”
A spokesman for the Ohio Republican Party said Mr. FitzGerald should focus more on his own qualifications and plans than on bashing Governor Kasich.
“[He] didn’t say one thing he was going to campaign on. He did a lot of mudslinging,” said GOP spokesman Matthew Henderson. “From our perspective as the Republican Party, the governor is focused on his No. 1 priority, which is creating jobs.”
Referring to the cuts in local government funding, Mr. Henderson said Mr. Kasich was left with an $8 billion shortfall by “FitzGerald’s mentor,” former Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland. “Governor Kasich had to make some tough choices.”
Mr. FitzGerald credited local Democratic lawmakers with helping to prevent Governor Kasich from “giving [the Ohio Turnpike] away completely.”
Mr. Kasich is advocating a plan to borrow $1.5 billion to spend on highway and bridge work against turnpike revenues rather than, as he was originally considering, leasing the turnpike.
Mr. FitzGerald also blasted the governor’s plan to expand what’s covered by the sales tax. The governor also proposes to reduce the state portion of the sales tax from 5.5 to 5 percent.
“If you end up getting more in debt because of these extra taxes and you need tax counseling, be careful because there’s another tax on debt counseling,” Mr. FitzGerald said.
Mr. FitzGerald said that when he took office in 2011 — the same time as Governor Kasich — he established a job development fund but rejected suggestions to form a private corporation such as Governor Kasich’s JobsOhio. The governor is under pressure from Republican Ohio Auditor David Yost to allow the program to be audited.
Mr. FitzGerald said on Monday said he formed his gubernatorial committee, saying it was to explore a run for the governorship. He said forming an exploratory committee allows him to fund-raise more aggressively. He predicted a 2014 race between him and Mr. Kasich would cost $30 million to $40 million.
Other potential contenders for the Democratic nomination for governor are Richard Cordray, former Ohio attorney general and currently President Obama’s top consumer watchdog in Washington; U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan from the Youngstown area, and Betty Sutton, a former Akron-area congressman.
Contact Tom Troy at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6058.