The Ripon Forum

Volume 47, No. 4

Fall 2013 Issue

Behind Kasich’s Rise

By on August 11, 2014 with 0 Comments


tpennyrfTwenty years ago, I teamed up with my then-congressional colleague, John Kasich, to draft a bipartisan deficit-reduction plan. Dubbed Penny-Kasich, our proposal offered sensible reforms and savings in every part of the federal budget – domestic, defense and entitlements. We took on the spenders on Capitol Hill – and the interest groups who always demand more government spending. Our focus was not only to cut the deficit – but to challenge the false assumption that more spending leads to better results.

Today, it is no surprise to me that my friend, now-Governor Kasich, is applying those same principles to state government in Ohio. Three years ago, he inherited a budget deep in the red and an economy that had lost 350,000 jobs. As a way back, he offered Ohioan’s an agenda that combined fiscal prudence with an emphasis on measureable outcomes. By almost any measure, he has since delivered on his promise of a “new day” for Ohio.

Let’s start with the big picture. Without raising taxes, Kasich turned an $8 billion shortfall into a surplus, banked away a $1.5 billion budget reserve, and improved the state’s credit outlook. With $3 billion in tax cuts and an ongoing regulatory overhaul, he has helped create a pro-growth climate in which Ohioans have created more than 160,000 new private sector jobs while reducing the unemployment rate from 9 percent to just over 7 percent.

 Without raising taxes, Kasich turned an $8 billion shortfall into a surplus, banked away a $1.5 billion budget reserve, and improved the state’s credit outlook.

Equally important as these accomplishments, however, is Kasich’s constant focus on getting better results from government. His efforts to restructure the Medicaid program by utilizing more coordinated and community-based care have produced both savings and better quality. Education reforms – including special efforts for Cleveland and Columbus advanced in partnership with those cities’ Democratic mayors — are improving opportunities for students. In addition, Kasich insisted that the higher education establishment spend money smarter and respond more quickly to job-training needs – and it is happening.

Governor Kasich is also accelerating much-needed transportation improvements. By leveraging profits from Ohio’s turnpikes, he closed a $1.6 billion highway budget deficit and dozens of new road projects will soon be underway – many of which would otherwise have waited for 12 years or more. These investments will pay dividends in improving Ohio’s infrastructure to the benefit of businesses and citizens alike.

Based on a friendship of nearly three decades, none of these achievements come as a surprise to me. I have always known John Kasich to be focused on getting things done. Most politicians are content to tinker around the edges or offer symbolic solutions – and often flee at the first sign of opposition. John is impatient with the status quo, however, and willing to take on the tough issues – and that sets him apart. John’s style may seem at times intense or even brash, but I came to learn – as Ohioans are now learning — that his intensity stems from a passion to do the right thing and help solve tough problems.

Here is something else I have always known about John. Though a highly successful Republican leader, John is not afraid to reach across the aisle to get things done. He is more than willing to partner with Democrats when common ground can be found. While in Congress, I observed and admired John as he tag-teamed with liberal California Congressman Ron Dellums to limit the B-2 bomber. Then, as previously cited, he partnered with me on the Penny-Kasich budget. More significantly, when chairing the U.S. House Budget Committee, he partnered with President Clinton to produce the first balanced budgets in three decades.

john-kasich Like Reagan, John is an able and pragmatic leader, and is guided by sound fiscal and economic principles — as well as a good heart.

Now, not surprisingly, as governor, John has reached across the aisle to enlist support for school reforms, expand efforts to combat drug and alcohol addiction, and ease the ability for felons to re-enter the workforce. Most recently, he has won praise from Democrats, while rankling many within his own party, by supporting the expansion of Medicaid to cover more low income families – something his political hero President Reagan himself did at least four times.

Like Reagan, John is an able and pragmatic leader, and is guided by sound fiscal and economic principles — as well as a good heart.

President Reagan found common ground with Democrats on a range of issues — saving Social Security, simplifying the tax code, enacting immigration reform – while still adhering to principle. Similarly, John is not afraid to partner with other people of goodwill whenever possible and when it makes sense.

His ambition and passion is to get things done that need doing. It all adds up to leadership that is making a positive difference for the people of Ohio and an example from which Washington could learn a thing or two.  RF

Tim Penny is President and CEO of the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation. From 1983 to 1995, he served as a Democratic Congressman representing the 1st District of Minnesota.

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