By Jason Hart | Ohio Watchdog
Another state fiscal year is in the books, and the numbers don’t lie: Ohio Gov. John Kasich is a big spender.
Ohio General Revenue Fund spending was $4.6 billion greater in 2015 than in 2011, the last year of Democratic former governor Ted Strickland’s second and final budget.
Spending growth under Kasich, a Republican, has been driven primarily by a 34 percent increase in Ohio’s Medicaid spending.
Of Ohio’s $30.8 billion GRF spending in 2015, a staggering $3.4 billion went to Kasich’s Obamacare expansion, putting working-age adults with no kids and no disabilities on Medicaid.
Through Kasich’s first two biennial budgets, GRF spending increased by an average of 4.4 percent per year based on the latest data from the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.
Ohio’s government spending under Kasich has grown at a much faster rate than inflation and population growth combined.
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In fiscal year 2010 while Ohio was being thrashed by a national recession, Strickland cut spending almost 10 percent — only to increase spending nearly 9 percent the following year with help from President Obama’s “stimulus.”
The first year of Kasich’s first budget increased spending only slightly, but Kasich and the Republican-dominated Ohio General Assembly have increased spending at an accelerating rate ever since.
“Gov. Kasich has increased spending at a rapid pace. He has cut personal income taxes a small amount. He treats that as a victory,” Nicole Kaeding, a budget analyst for the libertarian Cato Institute, said in an email to Ohio Watchdog.
“Imagine the size of the tax cuts for Ohio businesses and families if Kasich hadn’t championed higher spending,” Kaeding said.
She warned that the fiscal effects of Kasich’s Medicaid expansion — roughly $1.5 billion over budget in its first 18 months — will hit state taxpayers soon. Obamacare pays for 100 percent of the expansion until 2017.
“Soon, Ohio taxpayers will owe a share of the expansion budget,” Kaeding said. “And, it could be made worse if Congress decides to decrease the federal contribution — something both parties in Washington have supported previously.”
Increasing tax revenues and federal funding have given Kasich and the General Assembly room to cut income tax rates and end Ohio’s estate tax while still cranking up spending.
In 2015, $9.4 billion of Ohio’s GRF spending came from the federal government. Only in 2011, with “stimulus” money pouring into the state, were federal funds a larger share of Ohio’s GRF budget.
Ohio’s 2016-17 budget will only accelerate Ohio’s spending and dependence on the feds. GRF spending is expected to increase 13.1 percent in 2016 and another 4.2 percent in 2017, with over $12 billion coming from Washington, D.C., each year.
After increasing by almost 10 percent in 2015, Ohio’s Medicaid spending is expected to skyrocket by 22 percent in 2016. Kasich’s Obamacare expansion will cost more than $7 billion in the next two years.
If the Ohio Legislative Service Commission’s estimates prove accurate, Ohio’s government will spend $4 billion more in 2016 than in 2015.