SHEFFIELD TWP. — Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald on Sunday accused Republican Gov. John Kasich of balancing the budget on the backs of local governments.
Analyzing state statistics, One Ohio Now, a liberal policy group, estimates local governments and schools have lost $1.86 billion in state taxpayer aid between the 2010-11 fiscal year and 2014-15. That works out to $1.5 billion to cities and counties and $349 million to schools. Lorain County lost $48.4 million — $33.8 million to local governments and $14.6 million to schools, the policy group said.
FitzGerald noted Ohio governors are constitutionally mandated to balance budgets, but said the cuts to localities were unprecedented. He said the cuts have resulted in layoffs to firefighters, police and teachers and meant fewer social services and infrastructure improvements such as road resurfacing.
FitzGerald said the average citizen may not think much about state budgets, but the cuts affect families. “These things matter,” FitzGerald told about 30 supporters at Lorain County Democratic Party headquarters.
FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County executive and a former Lakewood mayor, prosecutor and FBI agent, said government should be helping the middle class and poor. He said Kasich’s concern is the rich.
FitzGerald cited Kasich’s income tax cuts and sales tax increases. Analyzing state statistics, Policy Matters Ohio, a liberal group affiliated with One Ohio Now, 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, Policy Matters Ohio said.
Ohio’s sales tax increased from 5.5 percent to 5.75 percent in September. Many economists see sales taxes as regressive because unlike income taxes, the rich and poor pay the same percentage.
FitzGerald said Kasich lied when he said he hasn’t raised taxes to balance the budget. “It never gets true no matter how many times he repeats it,” FitzGerald said.
Ohio Republican Party and Kasich campaign spokesman Chris Schrimpf, reached by phone after the FitzGerald appearance, said cuts to localities and the sales tax hikes have been offset by job creation. Citing federal Bureau of Labor statistics, Schrimpf said 263,000 jobs have been created in Ohio between January 2011 when Kasich took office and the end of June.
While county and city officials and school superintendents have complained about the cuts causing layoffs, service cuts and more levies, Schrimpf said job creation is creating “record” revenue and surpluses statewide.
“There’s never been more money going to schools and local governments,” he said. “Most of them are seeing increasing revenue, far beyond what they saw a couple of years ago.”
Not in Elyria, said Elyria Councilman Marcus Madison, D-5th Ward, who attended the FitzGerald appearance. Elyria Mayor Holly Brinda is seeking a 0.25 percent local income tax increase in November to fill a $2 million projected deficit due to less state money, Finance Director Ted Pileski said earlier this month.
“Local government (funding) is so critical to the work we do here in Lorain County,” said Madison, who is opposing state Sen. Gayle Manning, R-North Ridgeville, in November. “Over the past four years, Gov. Kasich’s cuts have forced local taxes up.”
FitzGerald’s comments were echoed by state Rep. Matt Lundy, D-Elyria, opposing County Republican Commissioner Tom Williams, and by Brendan Mackin, a Democratic state representative candidate from Avon Lake opposing Republican Nathan Manning, of North Ridgeville. Nathan Manning is the son of Sen. Manning.
Schrimpf said FitzGerald would raise income taxes if elected, which FitzGerald denied after the event. FitzGerald said he would restore local aid by running government more efficiently, pointing to Cuyahoga County, which he said has the largest surplus of any county in Ohio.
Schrimpf said FitzGerald’s latest budget doesn’t balance and noted Standard & Poors downgraded Cuyahoga County’s municipal bond rating in October. Bond ratings determine municipal borrowing rates. The downgrade was due to a population decline, not fiscal management, the Plain Dealer reported.
While Schrimpf questioned FitzGerald’s financial acumen, FitzGerald drew praise from supporters like Charles Pervo, of Avon Lake. Pervo said FitzGerald’s background in local and county government makes him more qualified than Kasich, a former congressman, Wall Street banker and Fox News host. “Ed has come up from the places where the rubber meets the road,” Pervo said.
Kasich had about $9.3 million in campaign cash on hand as of his last campaign filing, compared to about $1.9 million for FitzGerald. FitzGerald said he’s undeterred by Kasich having about 4.5 times as much money as he does. FitzGerald noted he was only one percentage point behind Kasich in a Public Policy Polling poll earlier this month.
“We have the truth on our side,” FitzGerald said. “We have the issues on our side and we have the people on our side.”