Ohio Gov. John Kasich was to release his two-year budget proposal today. We have a feeling it was for times like this the phrase "much wailing and gnashing of teeth" was coined.
Kasich and members of the General Assembly have a daunting task ahead of them: They must find ways to close an estimated $8 billion gap between revenue and expenses expected during the next two fiscal years. There will be no federal bail-out to help them.
The governor is right to insist the budget not be balanced on the backs of Buckeye State taxpayers. Ohio families and businesses are still struggling to recover from the recession. One in 10 state residents who would like to be working cannot find a job. The state's 10.1 percent unemployment rate is higher than the nation's as a whole (9.8 percent). Higher taxes would only prolong the suffering.
Reductions in government spending are the only reasonable approach to the deficit, then. Because the state has no choice about billions of dollars in expenses, for programs such as pensions, the $8 billion will have to come entirely out of "discretionary" spending. That will force massive cutbacks in some state programs - and, no doubt, reductions in state support for some local government activities such as public schools.
We urge Kasich and legislators to be as restrained as possible in state aid cuts. Some school districts, including a few in our area, are teetering on the brink of insolvency as it is. Massive cuts in state aid will push them over the edge. At best, some would have to increase local taxes - and that would have the same effect as tax hikes in Columbus.
Make no mistake about it, however: Legislators and the governor have no choice but to slash spending by whatever means possible. That will not be easy and it will make state officials very unpopular in some quarters. But there is a bottom line, just as there is in Ohio households. When the money runs out, spending must be cut.
The money has run out.