ELYRIA — Ohio has become an oligarchy under Gov. John Kasich in which decisions benefit wealthy elites, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald said Tuesday.
FitzGerald told about 45 members of the Committee Organized for Democratic Elections that the Republican Kasich and the Republican-majority Legislature have enacted reverse-Robin Hood taxation. He said the poor and middle class have paid for tax cuts for the rich.
“The policies that John Kasich has implemented have benefited a very small group of people, and for that group of people, things are very, very good,” said FitzGerald, who also is Cuyahoga County executive. “But for the vast majority of people in Ohio, not so much.”
FitzGerald cited Ohio’s sales tax increase from 5.5 percent to 5.75 percent in September, 50 percent cuts in state taxpayer aid to local governments and cuts to schools since Kasich took office in 2011. Ohio Policy Matters, a liberal think tank, said there were $1.8 billion in education cuts in the 2012-13 biennial budget. FitzGerald previously said Lorain County has lost about $33.8 million under Kasich and county schools have lost $14.6 million.
Before the 33-minute speech and 20-minute question-and-answer session, FitzGerald said his top priority, if elected, would be restoring aid to local governments, but he wouldn’t do it by raising taxes that Kasich slashed.
“It’s what are your budgetary priorities?” he said. “Our priorities are different than his priorities.”
FitzGerald also has promised to open up the books of JobsOhio, the privatized economic development agency created by Kasich. The department has been criticized for a lack of transparency by Ohio Auditor Dave Yost, a Republican.
However FitzGerald has been accused of hypocrisy about transparency for refusing to release keycard information about his comings and goings in Cuyahoga County. FitzGerald said he is withholding the information due to “death threats” against him.
FitzGerald ridiculed Kasich’s contention that Kasich has presided over an economic “miracle.”
“The people who are running the state of Ohio are working for a tiny group of people who are experiencing a miracle, but it’s at everybody else’s expense,” he told the audience.
Citing Corporation for Enterprise Development statistics, FitzGerald said half of Ohioans are living paycheck to paycheck and 10 percent earn the minimum wage, which he wants to increase from $7.95 per hour to $10.10 per hour. He said the drop in Ohio’s unemployment rate in March from 6.5 percent to 6.1 percent was due to workers dropping out of the job market.
FitzGerald said the top employment gains other than for low-wage jobs are due to the American auto industry rebound and increased fracking. FitzGerald said Kasich has little control over fracking and opposed the auto industry bailout.
Ohio Policy Matters said the wealthiest 1 percent of Ohioans, who earned at least $335,000 annually in 2012, received about a $6,000 annual tax cut in the first Kasich budget. Those earning between $33,000 and $50,000 annually received a $5 annual tax cut, while those earning less than $33,000 earned a $24 tax cut.
Nevertheless, Ohio Republican Party spokesman Chris Schrimpf said the cuts were equitable and all Ohioans have more money in their pockets.
“As a result of that, we are seeing economic growth that has resulted in even more money for Ohio families,” he said.
Schrimpf said Kasich has created 250,000 jobs since taking office and turned a $6.5 billion deficit into a $1.5 billion surplus.
“Under Ed FitzGerald, we would likely have fewer jobs and higher taxes,” he said.
Schrimpf said Kasich’s campaign has raised $10 million and has $8 million on hand. FitzGerald wouldn’t say how much money his campaign has on hand, but spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said it has raised $1.42 million between January and April compared with $1.5 million by Kasich.
FitzGerald, a former Lakewood mayor, said he’s always been outspent in campaigns but managed to overcome it. He said real conversations with voters, rather than money, win elections.
“We need to get 2 million votes,” he said. “We need to have 2 million conversations.”