Yesterday, in news eclipsed by the ongoing furor about the killing of Osama bin Laden, voters went to the polls in Ohio. On the ballot were primary elections for mayors and city councilmen, and a whole bevy of proposed tax levies, both new and renewed.
Governor Kasich and the Republican majority in the State legislature had just slashed state aid to local governments in a most draconian manner–by at least half–in the latest state budget.
Upon hearing that local governments, school districts, and library districts were proposing tax hikes to offset those vicious cuts(some of it coming from eliminating the estate tax on wealthy heirs), Governor Kasich went public and urged the voters to vote all of them down. After all, if the public employee unions and their benefits were destroyed, there would be plenty of money already, right? Crack down on those spoiled policemen, firemen, teachers and librarians, pay them minimum wage at best, and the invisible hand of the free market will provide all sorts of jobs! To do anything else would be to perpetuate an “anti-business” climate, right?
While the majority of school levy increases went down to defeat, at least in northeast Ohio, every single increase for police, fire, road building and libraries passed. The LOWEST level of victory for libraries was 66% in favor. All tax increases for maintaining police, fire, and road maintenance departments also passed by substantial margins. At least a third of the school levies passed as well.
School levies are tricky to analyze. Local situations vary considerably. Here in Euclid, for example, part of the municipal income tax goes to the school district already. The fact that income tax delinquency notices went out just a week before the election could not have helped the school district’s cause. That levy went down by a 2 to 1 margin. Parma, OTOH, passed a school levy increase on the 8th try after 7 consecutive failures. Maybe the fact that the high school sports program would be completely eliminated if it failed this time had something to do with that.
But Ohioans showed that they like their police, fire, and road maintenance people, and they LOVE their libraries. Kasich or no Kasich. Anti-business or not. There are simply some public services that most Ohioans are not willing to part with in the name of “free enterprise.” Or, more accurately, in the name of pure capitalism.
Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Kasich!