Victories And Setbacks Mark Kasich’s First Year As Governor

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Rep. John Kasich took office in January, despite not winning a majority of votes in the 2010 election.(Photo: ihrigmr (Flickr))
Rep. John Kasich took office in January, despite not winning a majority of votes in the 2010 election.(Photo: ihrigmr (Flickr))

It’s been both a good year and a bad year for Gov. John Kasich.

The Republican former congressman was elected in a GOP tsunami in 2010, and has seen most of his big plans enacted.

But he also has suffered a big defeat, and has plenty of critics.

From the moment John Kasich found out he’d been elected Ohio’s 69th governor in November 2010, business and the economy have dominated his administration. With a Republican-run Ohio House and GOP-dominated Senate firmly behind him, Gov. Kasich put his proposals before lawmakers – the first of which was a plan to privatize the Department of Development using the state’s liquor profits.

“What JobsOhio is, is an organization that is going to move at the speed of business,” Kasich said.

By March, when Kasich delivered his State of the State speech, the bill creating JobsOhio had been signed into law.

“We’re going to get the best and the brightest that we can find in Ohio, people who are these entrepreneurs and job creators. They’ll be on the board. People will know what the heck they get, who they are. They’re not going to get paid any money because they don’t need any money. They’re just here to give back to Ohio because Ohio’s been good to them,” Kasich said.

Democrats complained JobsOhio was unconstitutional and tried to stop it. But at the end of the year Gov. Kasich credited JobsOhio with creating 21-thousand jobs and keeping 62,000 in Ohio. But Kasich didn’t get everything he wanted. Right after his inauguration in January, he made clear he supported changes to Ohio’s collective bargaining law.

“My personal philosophy is that I don’t like public employees striking. They got good jobs, they got high pay, they got good benefits and great retirement – what are they striking for?”

Kasich had said many times that there would be no tax increases on his watch, even with an estimated $8 billion budget deficit. So when he slashed money to schools and local governments in his two-year budget, Gov. Kasich suggested that the collective bargaining reform law known as Senate Bill 5 would help them control costs.

And when unions and Democratic activists put the law before voters in November, the Governor became the face of the unpopular plan – earning some support from the Republican Governors Association. An ad said “Gov. John Kasich has developed reasonable reforms to control the cost of government, protecting our taxpaying families and promoting job creation.) Kasich: We’re simply asking our government employees to pay their fair share.”

After Senate Bill 5 was crushed, Kasich was conciliatory, saying he felt Ohioans might have been saying “it was too much too soon.”

“My view is when people speak in a campaign like this in a referendum, you have to listen when you’re a public servant,” Kasich said as Issue 2 was being called in favor of his oppoonents.

Overall, John Kasich ends the year as an unpopular governor. A Quinnipiac poll in October had 52 percent of Ohioans disapproving of his performance in office. He’s faced protesters in many forums, from outside his office at the Statehouse, to speeches to business groups, to during the Senate Bill 5 hearings, and even during his budget unveiling and his State of the State speech.

Kasich has repeatedly said politics has no place in his administration. But his call for Ohio GOP Party chair Kevin DeWine to resign has been well-publicized, and has led to a rift within the state party. And for some of his critics, Kasich is a partisan, divisive force. But detractors and supporters alike listen when Gov. Kasich speaks.

The governor prides himself on not using prepared speeches or a teleprompter – the reliance on that device is a common dig on President Obama by his opponents, many of whom like Kasich. Without it, Gov. Kasich has said a lot of things that range from surprising to outrageous.

Speaking to a group of lobbyists, he told them “we need you on the bus, and if you’re not on the bus, we will run over you with the bus. And I’m not kidding.”

In February he asked a group of state EPA workers if they had “ever been stopped by a policeman who was an idiot?” He then told a story about being pulled over and called the police officer an idiot.

He later apologized.

He also took criticism for saying he was “waiting for the teachers unions, however, to take out full-page ads in all the major newspapers apologizing for what they said” about him during the campaign.

But Kasich might never know if that were to happen: as part of his many slaps at the media and individual reporters over the year, the Governor has said several times that he doesn’t read Ohio newspapers.

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