Matt Mayer

DUBLIN: Gov. John Kasich likes to yell from the Davos mountaintop about the alleged “Ohio Miracle” taking place due to his policies. The problem with all that yelling is it distracts people from what is really happening in Ohio. The reality is that Ohio’s private sector stalled dramatically in 2012. As our recent survey found, jobs remain priority one for Ohioans.

Due to the global recession, Ohio’s job market bottomed out in February 2010 at 4,220,700 jobs. In Gov. Ted Strickland’s last year, Ohio added 68,800 jobs. During Gov. Kasich’s first year, Ohio’s job market picked up steam by adding 99,900 jobs.

Then, things took a turn south. In 2012, with Gov. Kasich’s policies firmly in place, Ohio only added 42,300 jobs — a 58 percent drop from 2011 and the 39th best in America. In fact, from June 2012 to March 2013, Ohio’s private sector grew by a mere 3,700 jobs or just 500 jobs per month. For 2013, Ohio has lost 1,700 net jobs so far.

From January 2010 until February 2013, Ohio’s private sector grew at the 26th best pace in America. During Gov. Strickland’s last year, Ohio’s growth was the 16th best. Under Gov. Kasich, it fell to the 29th best in the U.S.

A few weeks back, Gov. Kasich gave a speech making fun of Indiana. Around the same time, Indiana announced that another Ohio company decided to move there. During Gov. Kasich’s term, Indiana’s job growth ranks as the 13th best. Looks like Indiana is getting the last laugh.

I bet Mitt Romney wishes Gov. Kasich would have leveled with Ohioans last fall on how our jobs economy really was doing. Instead, he spent 2012 promoting an “Ohio Miracle” that wasn’t so miraculous and made Romney look uninformed on the top issue for Ohioans.

Based on my analysis using various growth models, Ohio likely won’t fully recover to its previous peak employment level of 4.85 million jobs, hit in March 2000, until June 2019. Our worst-case recovery won’t happen until April 2024!

The problem is that Gov. Kasich fights the wrong fights. First, he has spent a year trying to raise taxes on energy entrepreneurs, landowners and farmers with a severance tax increase. With his latest budget, he is trying to raise the sales tax by expanding it to cover previously exempt spending. For many Ohioans and small businesses, his tax increases would more than offset the small tax reduction they are supposed to get.

Then, instead of spending time since June (when the Supreme Court made Medicaid expansion optional) creating an alternative fiscally responsible plan to help Ohio’s poor, he worked with left-wing groups and entrenched interests to stack the deck in favor of expanding poorly performing Medicaid under Obamacare. The price tag for that decision would be in the billions for Ohio taxpayers and businesses.

Lastly, rather than reducing the cost of government, Gov. Kasich’s budget, if adopted, would increase state general revenue fund expenditures by 24.4 percent in just four years. Even if you baseline Gov. Kasich’s spending from his first year to his proposed last year, spending will go up almost 21 percent in three years!

Gov. Kasich’s first two years can be summed up as higher taxes, greater government spending and weak job growth.

Beyond reducing government spending, rejecting Medicaid expansion and ending his pursuit of tax increases, the single biggest policy change for Ohio would be adopting a workplace freedom law, which Gov. Kasich unfortunately opposes.

Ohioans need jobs.

From 1990 to 2013, forced unionization states like Ohio have averaged just 16 percent net private sector job growth. In stark contrast, workplace freedom states nearly tripled that by averaging a 41 percent net increase in job growth. During that time, the wage gap between forced unionization and workplace freedom states shrunk.

Think about it: More jobs means more Ohioans working whose increasing prosperity will result in more revenues to fund necessary government services and to cut taxes.

It is time Ohio’s elected officials take on the tough fight that Indiana’s and Michigan’s leaders already tackled. Aren’t you tired of Ohio always being a jobs laggard? We need to stick to what time has shown works and leads to robust job growth.

Mayer is the president of Opportunity Ohio, a free market think tank in Dublin, Ohio.