COLUMBUS (AP) — Democrats in the Ohio Senate say they’ll push Republican Gov. John Kasich to include more preschool funding, expanded drug addiction services and a steeper tax hike on oil-and-gas drillers in his upcoming midterm budget.
Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni and fellow Democratic leaders would also like to see Ohio’s homestead exemption tax and property tax rollbacks reinstated and funding provided for Ohio’s Third Grade Reading Guarantee.
Kasich has begun a tradition of introducing a Midterm Budget Review, or MBR, a year into Ohio’s proscribed two-year operating budget. He’s expected to preview this year’s bill during next week’s State of the State speech.
Senate Democrats pinpointed their priorities Thursday. The budget document is due early next month.
A Kasich spokesman didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.
Ohio’s Democratic Party chairman says he expects the organization to file a federal lawsuit over an absentee-ballot measure passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature.
State Rep. Chris Redfern, the party’s chairman, says Democrats believe the measure violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection, along with the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The bill would let the secretary of state mail unsolicited applications for general elections and only if the Legislature directed the money for it. Other public officials would be banned from sending the unsolicited applications. Ohio’s larger, urban counties traditionally have sent voters such applications.
Republican backers say the change helps achieve consistency across the swing state.
The measure passed Wednesday along with a separate bill to trim early voting. Kasich is expected to sign them.
The Ohio Governor is among prospective Republican challengers lagging Democrat Hillary Clinton in an independent poll of prospective 2016 presidential matchups.
A Quinnipiac University survey released Thursday finds Ohio voters favor Clinton over Kasich 51 percent to 39 percent. Nearly half say Kasich wouldn’t make a good president, compared with 55 percent who believe Clinton would.
Among Republicans tested, 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan fared best against Clinton in the critical battleground state.
Kasich came next, followed by Sen. Rand Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in a tie; Sen. Marco Rubio; former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush; and Sen. Ted Cruz. Margin of error for the telephone survey of 1,370 registered voters conducted February 12 to 17 is plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Kasich isn’t even guaranteed of a win as he attempts to hold on to his current job.
Democrats, facing fewer opportunities to pick up seats in the Senate and House, see a more fertile playing field in the three dozen governors’ races across the country this year. As a bonus, there’s even the potential of scoring an early knockout against a potential 2016 Republican presidential contender or two.
In Ohio, Kasich is up for re-election in the perennial presidential swing state. Recent polls suggest he holds a narrow advantage over Ed FitzGerald, a little-known Democratic county executive. A former House Budget Committee chairman, Kasich was humbled by an expensive battle with labor unions in 2011 that overturned restrictions he championed on unions representing police, firefighters, teachers and other public workers. Kasich briefly sought the presidency in 1999 and Republicans say he could pursue it again if he wins re-election.
In campaigns with broad presidential implications, Democrats see encouraging signs in their fight against Republicans’ hold of 29 of the nation’s 50 governor’s mansions. Republicans will have a large map to defend — the GOP controls 22 of the 36 seats up for election, including six in states that Obama carried twice: Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin and Maine.
Part of the strategy aims to undercut a group of prominent Republican governors first elected in 2010 who have presided over improving economies and billed themselves as reformers in contrast to the dysfunction in Congress.
The GOP is waging a broad campaign to highlight improving economies and optimism under Republican governors from South Carolina to New Mexico. Republican strategists view Obama as a liability for Democrats, particularly in a number of Rust Belt states that elected GOP governors four years ago. But they acknowledge that the fall elections could influence the 2016 presidential race, when the GOP field could include Christie, Walker, Kasich and outgoing Govs. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and Rick Perry of Texas.
“2014 will have a lot to do with how 2016 turns out,” said former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. “If we re-elect most of our governors, and they run on their records, then the governors will become even stronger leaders of our party.”
The state campaigns represent an anomaly for Democrats, who face daunting challenges this year in trying to retain their Senate majority and recapture the House. In gubernatorial races, Democrats hope to go on offense.
Republicans want to bind Democratic candidates to Obama on the economy and the health care rollout.
“They want to talk about our governors because they don’t want to talk about their own,” said Phil Cox, the executive director of the Republican Governors Association. “They’ve got some very vulnerable incumbents.”
Democrats say their candidates need to explain the benefits of the health care law, noting that Obama would benefit from more allies in the states. The president’s health care overhaul was largely implemented in states with Democratic governors while their GOP counterparts tried to block it in court. Many Republican governors also opposed expanding Medicaid or creating their own statewide exchanges.
“I certainly wouldn’t be running away from the president if I were on the ballot this year,” said former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland. “There’s a lot of positive stuff to talk about.”