Is Ohio Governor John Kasich the Chris Christie of the Midwest?
It’s understandable that many conservatives thought they had an ally in Kasich. For two years he spoke their language and moved the state in a conservative direction. But careful observers saw troubling signs of a big government statist percolating beneath the surface.
Shortly after Kasich assumed office, outgoing governor Ted Strickland said that Ohio’s share of Race to the Top education funding, which came with significant federal strings attached, would be in jeopardy if Kasich implemented his planned education reforms.
Kasich wasn’t concerned. He made overtures toward Obama by flirting with his education secretary. He had a first and then a second date with Arne Duncan and said the federal grant money was not in jeopardy:
“I had what I can only describe as a great conversation with the secretary,” the Toledo Free Press reported, “And I told him when it comes to accountability, choice, and high standards, where do I get in line? He said, look, you’ll have your money and we’ll be great partners. And I said, could I tell the media that, he said absolutely.”
The Toledo Free Press also reported that:
[Kasich spokesman Rob] Nichols said Kasich saw Duncan again Dec. 2 on a visit to Washington and Race to the Top did not come up. He said they spoke about overall education reforms, and Kasich is convinced the two see eye-to-eye on many education issues.
Then late last year, the governor of Ohio signed a directive mandating that all private insurance companies in the state cover treatment for autism. The “conservative” governor, apparently frustrated that the autism coverage bill stalled in the General Assembly, decided to go the executive fiat route.
In defending his decision, Kasich winked at Dear Leader Obama—for the children! :
When we have the chance to do the right thing, we better do it because we don’t want to live life with any regrets. We’re doing the right thing today. Helping kids with autism get the services they need, and helping their parents get the financial lifeline of insurance coverage, that’s something I support. ... We’re not going to turn our backs on them. In fact, we’re extending them our hands and are going to bring them along.
And then Kasich climbed up into Obama’s lap and planted a wet, sloppy kiss on his cheek. The Toledo Blade reported:
[Kasich] also sent the Obama Administration a written “comment” on proposed federal rules for implementation of the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in Ohio that his office said have the effect of including autism spectrum disorder as part of the minimum coverage private insurers would have to provide under the law.
The new mandate likely violates three substantive provisions of the Health Care Freedom Amendment, which is now enshrined in the Ohio Constitution. Responding to criticism that the mandate violates the state constitution, Kasich’s spokesman Rob Nichols gave Obama a bear hug of his own, saying, “[We] just don’t have common ground for discussion with anyone who opposes providing this kind of help to a child with a disability.”
In other words, anyone who disagrees with Kasich’s imperial fiat would leave kids with autism to fend for themselves. Interesting and familiar strategy.
It's not the only time the governor acted like King John Kasich. He violated the Ohio Constitution when he made a backroom deal with casino owners to exempt them from the commercial activity tax, simultaneously expanding the lottery (again, in direct violation of the Constitution) by placing video lottery terminals at racetracks. Kasich justified it by saying he was getting "a better deal" for the state.
On the heels of these decisions and with the other signs of trouble, it probably should not have come as a surprise to anyone that Kasich’s 2014-2015 budget included something considered to be a first degree heresy by many conservatives in the state: an expansion of Medicaid as part of the Obamacare debacle.