IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Ted Strickland did not wreck the state
Akron Beacon Journal, Editorial
August 21, 2016
A recent television ad from the National Republican Senatorial Committee starts: “When you’re governor, your job is to protect the state’s finances.” No surprise that an outfit devoted to electing, and re-electing, Republicans to the U.S. Senate thinks Ted Strickland fell far short of this standard during his one term as Ohio governor. The trouble is, the ad pushes the boundaries of believability, particularly for those of us who were here.
Or put more sharply, this ad reflects an alternate reality.
To be sure, Strickland and his allies have stretched the truth in seeking to unseat Rob Portman, who is pursuing a second term in the U.S. Senate. What is so dismaying about the NRSC spot is that Republicans have been making these charges for six years. Their assertions long have been found hollow, yet they persist.
The ad, which features a parachute jump, presumably Ohio falling to oblivion, recalls that Strickland “inherited” a $1 billion rainy day fund. It then asserts that he “wasted the money. He blew it all,” leaving “Ohio with just 89 cents.” Thus, Strickland “just can’t be trusted with taxpayer dollars.”
Wasted the money? Like some wayward heir squandering the family fortune? Actually, the Great Recession hit, state revenues declining sharply, Ohio losing 400,000 jobs. (The country lost as many as 800,000 jobs per month.) Strickland and state lawmakers faced a large budget hole.
What did they do in response? They protected the state’s finances. They made painful spending reductions, including cuts to addiction and mental health programs. They postponed a fifth phase in lowering income tax rates. They also tapped the rainy day fund, which was designed for just such moments. It was pouring, and Strickland made the responsible choice to protect priorities.
If not during the worst downturn since the Great Depression, when does the NRSC recommend using such funds?
Worth adding is that Ohio began to add jobs with nine months remaining in Strickland’s term, roughly 100,000 if you count until the end of his second budget in July 2011. So the story isn’t so simple. Strickland could be trusted with taxpayer dollars, keeping the state budget in balance, aided along the way by federal stimulus money.
So far, Portman has run a smart campaign, capturing some labor endorsements, positioning himself as the enforcer of trade agreements, at the front in fighting the heroin epidemic. Politics is a rough business. Candidates get hit with distortions, and they must rally to punch back. Then, there are episodes when the cheap shots go too far. They call into question judgment and integrity, reminding many viewers of what they detest about the campaign season.
This empty line of attack has been going on too long. Rob Portman should know that he deserves better from his friends.