October 23, 2014

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Economy key as Ohio governor candidates enter final months

Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich, left, and his Democratic challenger, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald

Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich, left, and his Democratic challenger, Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald

CINCINNATI — Looking at a wide view of Ohio’s economy, there are clear signs of economic progress during Republican John Kasich’s time as governor. Zooming into the kitchen tables of typical Ohioans brings a fuzzier picture.

In the broad view, the state has added jobs and reduced unemployment, and overall state income and consumer spending have increased. Yet many households’ incomes and their net worth have lagged below pre-recession numbers, home ownership hasn’t bounced back all the way, and poverty rates have risen.

A look at the facts and politics about Ohio’s economy at the household level with Kasich seeking re-election Nov. 4 against Democrat Ed FitzGerald.

The numbers

Overall state income has risen, but real median household income — or the money coming into households at the midpoint of income distribution — fell at a steeper rate than the nation’s. Real median incomes dropped from more than $54,000 in 2007 to less than $45,000 in 2012, the latest federal estimates. That indicates that income gains tended to be in the top half, while some in the lower half had less income than before the recession. The number of people living at or below federal poverty levels continued to increase in Ohio, topping 16 percent in the last census estimates from 13 percent in 2007. In a measure of a middle class-defining goal, home ownership rates were at 68 percent last year, down from 71 percent before the recession’s onset.

Ohio’s growth in economic output slowed to below 2 percent last year, or about the same as the national rate, after topping the national rate with rises of around 3 percent in each of the previous three years. The state’s gross domestic product, which fell to $476 billion in 2009, has climbed steadily to $565 billion under Kasich, according to federal numbers.
That means the value of Ohio-produced goods and services are increasing, and in another positive sign for the state’s economic outlook, recently released federal statistics show consumer spending in Ohio rose 12 percent in the first three years after the recession’s end.

The context

Ohio’s experience has been similar to much of the nation’s in making a slow recovery from the Great Recession of 2007-09. The state was particularly hard hit by an auto industry freefall that contributed to the loss of thousands of good-paying jobs.

Overall employment rates have rebounded and the state’s economy has expanded, but that growth, Miami University economist William Even said, “isn’t lifting all boats by the same amount.” Many non-skilled workers and less-educated residents are still hurting, and one study found nearly half of Ohio households are living paycheck-to-paycheck with little in the way of savings or emergency funds, surveys have indicated.

The campaigns

Kasich trumpets “the Ohio comeback” under his leadership, saying the state has led the Midwest in job creation while building up a budget surplus and cutting taxes. The administration also points out that per-capita income and average wages have risen since 2010 faster than the national averages.

FitzGerald said the state’s wealthiest people and its biggest corporations have benefited the most from tax cuts and other Kasich policies, while “working people are being chased out of the middle class.” Democrats also point to statistics showing that Ohio’s recovery began in 2010, the last year that Kasich’s predecessor, Democrat Ted Strickland, was still governor.

The plans

Kasich said continued income tax cuts will put more dollars into the pockets of working Ohioans, and aggressive work by the private JobsOhio agency he created will continue to bring good-paying jobs to Ohio and give major employers incentives to expand in the state. He also is promoting education changes aimed at making sure students are being prepared for modern workforce needs.

FitzGerald said he will help households have more cash by restoring local government funding trimmed from the state budget, which he says has led to local levies for many households in recent years, and make tax changes to help small businesses grow and hire more workers. He also supports expansion of pre-K education to give early starts on their futures to Ohio children.

Ohio voice

Andrea Deckard, who left a corporate job to become a stay-at-home mom in suburban Monroe because of family needs, started a website, Savings Lifestyle, during the recession to help people find discounts, freebies and make household changes to stretch their budgets. Her readers and the experiences of her own family of five tell her that times remain tight for many people.

“The economy might be improving somewhat,” said Deckard, “but people don’t have that extra money in their budgets.” In some cases, people who lost jobs during the recession have taken jobs at lower pay or jobs at similar pay but requiring long, gas-sucking commutes, while monthly budgets are squeezed by higher food, gas and home energy costs, she said.

People spend more time shopping for discounts — she said she went a long time when she didn’t buy anything without a coupon — and have given up pleasures that have become luxuries, from annual vacations to cable TV channels, she said.

“I know it doesn’t seem like big sacrifices to people who are really struggling,” Deckard said. “My husband loved to watch ESPN.”


  • guest

    Tired of their ads already.

  • SniperFire

    AP, and by extension the C-T, would like you to believe Fitzgerald’s dishonesty, and complete lack of credibility and character is not a factor.

    • Sis Delish

      Back-seat Reporting on behalf of the Press?

  • HankKwah

    FitzGerald has no idea what he’s doing. Has dropped one running mate due to not paying taxes, has issues with full disclosure concerning the times he comes and goes on his job, neglected to get a driver’s license for 10 years but drove anyway. Who the heck wants someone like that responsible for running the State??

  • todd

    I was sooooooo happy when I got the final numbers on my state taxes. The Governors self employment tax cut saved me lots of money. He’s got my vote again.

  • Kevin Baker

    Lets all remember State Issue 5…that is what we all need to remember of Kasich. Ohio is moving forward off of national economic trends and nothing to due with Kasich.

    • John Davidson

      Issue 5 would have been the greatest thing to happen in Ohio for years. It sure did work in Wisconsin and would have here if given a chance.

      • JoyceEarly

        Agreed, the labor unions have the taxpayers by the short hairs. Government should never have gotten in bed with the unions.

    • HankKwah

      State Issue 5 is why most of us are voting for him again. Labor unions have too much power and cost the municipalities too much money. And too much grief and legal fees.

      • tickmeoff

        State issue 5 got voted down, by your fellow Ohioans. Who is us?

        • HankKwah

          I wasn’t the only one that voted for it, was I? By the info I’ve got, there were 1,373,723 other voters that thought this was a good idea. I’m thinking there are probably even more now.

          That’s who “US” is.

          Probably the same “us” that thought a vote for obama, either time, was a big joke. And I KNOW there are more that think that now.

        • Pablo Jones

          When the voters in Ohio were asked (pulled) specifically about each of the items within SB5 a large majority approved them. What happen though is there were adds telling people if it stays law the fire/police department won’t show up and grandma will die.

      • Scout

        And remember the issue with the cleveland fire dept and their trading working times didn’t come out until AFTER the voting down of SB5-imagine that. Had it come out before I’m sure SB5 would have passed and the union/members would have had to pay more of their benefits.

    • Bill Love

      Please all he has done is put ohio back together after the dems screwes everything up

  • JustaTech

    What happened to that $485M for the railroad we missed out on because Kasich thought he could spend it on other things? Oh, that’s right, California got it and they are making great progress in public rail transportation. This has nothing to do with Republican Ohio leadership. It has to do with nationwide economic trends. Things would be much better if our elected leaders would stop stonewalling our president! This sounds like a paid political ad with the usual BS.

    • Joe Smith

      The Pres needs stonewalled

    • Oneday67

      Do me a favor and move to California. Please.

    • Oneday67

      I dare you

    • John Davidson

      Please do not refer to him as our president. I never voted for him and all he has done is try to run Our country like a dictator.

      • tickmeoff

        It doesn’t matter if you didn’t vote for him. Your fellow american’s did. I didn’t vote for George W, though I did vote for his Dad. You sound like a child, if you don’t do what i want, I am going home with my ball, and nobody’s playing. Obstructionism is here to stay, we have gotten a lesson on it the last 6 years. No matter who wins next, Democrat or Republican, it will be business as usual! Have a good day under your President Barack Hussein Obama.

    • John Davidson

      Your, or the president needs to keep himself on the golf course where he has less of a chance in doing more damage to our country.

    • Pablo Jones

      $485 million of federal money and Billions of State dollars. Taxes are going up and people are moving out. Oh and 7.8% unemployment in California, 5.7% unemployment Ohio.

    • Bill Love

      And calforna is broke as Detroit

  • GreatRedeemer

    That Fitzgerald guy seems more distracted in waxing the shillelagh at 4:30 AM and learning to drive than being Gov. Just saying.

  • 2Cents

    We all agree that all politicians lie, right. Well then keeping promises should be a great reason to vote for Kasich. The fact is, 81% of what he promised has either been completed or is in the process of completion — compared to 57% for Fitzgerald.

    Don’t forget, Kasich can legally drive himself to work.