By Jim Renacci
Failed leadership in the past has caused Ohio to become one of the ‘most left’ states in America thanks to failing infrastructure, slow job creation and lethargic wage growth. The state simply isn’t competitive in the race to attract and retain businesses, and its showing. Since leaving Congress in January, I have been listening to Ohioans in cities and rural areas alike that feel angry, tired and frustrated. They want to know why our neighbors are winning and why Ohio is missing out on the Trump economy. I tell them all: we can thank John Kasich.
It was always clear Kasich had aspirations for a higher office. From the statehouse to Congress to the governor’s mansion, he was always putting his interests above the people. We accepted it because political ambition is typical of today’s environment. But Kasich wasn’t thinking about the next generation – he was thinking about his next office. And it was his thirst for the presidency that kept him from focusing and solving the most pressing issues in the Buckeye State.
While he was in office, Ohio ranked in the bottom third of all states in terms of job growth because of the declining manufacturing sector, yet we were probably in the top ten in terms of the tax burden on individual residents. Ohio’s job growth numbers were dismal during Kasich’s first seven years in office. From December 2017 until December 2018, in the midst of the longest economic expansion in American history, statewide employment grew by less than one percent.
He claims to be the economic hero for Ohio, but while he was in office, we were in the ditch.
Rather than address the hard challenges of making the state more business-friendly, and creating conditions which encouraged job growth and wage increases for working-class families, Kasich traveled the country, essentially applying for a promotion and ignoring the job voters had hired him to do. He wasn’t just out of touch with the issues facing Ohioans, he was aloof.
It’s important that Ohio residents don’t put on rose-colored glasses in looking back at the Kasich years. He is not an economic hero. That mantle belongs to President Donald Trump.
The only reason Ohio isn’t completely lost is because of the president’s policies, especially the federal tax cuts he championed, which likely saved the Buckeye State from economic ruin. President Trump’s tax breaks benefited manufacturers and encouraged hiring. Kasich’s policies, when he even chose to focus on them, did nothing.
We’re on the road to economic recovery but ours will be a long journey. State tax revenue has not reached the level it was prior to the 2008 recession and last year, our gross domestic product trailed every other state in the region and 33 states in total. The time has come for our current state leaders to do their part to push the Buckeye State forward.
Ohio politicians are exploding state deficits, increasing taxes and hobbling our ability to prove ourselves competitive. Just like their counterparts in Congress, elected officials in the state capitol have no concerns about a lack of revenue. Everyone just keeps on spending, completely unfazed about the consequences. Columbus has been a free-for-all on spending this year and it’s because politicians know they’ll be out of office before the effects of runaway spending hit the pocketbooks of average Ohioans.
We can change that. The politicians in power can look at our economic challenges and own up to the fact the current policies have us stuck in neutral. But it’s going to take a great and unwavering commitment to lower taxes and live within our means. This is the fundamental key to economic growth. We must reject the Washington way of taxing-and-spending. Only then, we will see Ohio’s economy rebound.
We can undo the damage of Kasich’s policies and move Ohio forward, but doing so will require bold and legacy shaping leadership from our state leaders. And they should look to President Trump as they legislate and not lose sight of how Ohio got into this position, the failed policies and leadership of John Kasich.
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Jim Renacci represented Ohio’s 16th Congressional District from 2011 to 2019. This piece is adapted from his new book, “The GOP’s Lost Decade: An Inside View of Why Washington Doesn’t Work.”
Photo “John Kasich” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY 2.0. Background Photo “Ohio Statehouse” by Alexander Smith. CC BY-SA 3.0.