Ohio Gov. John Kasich and aides who handle state spending plans may be viewed by some, including liberal legislators, as supreme tightwads. After all, Kasich himself frowns on new spending initiatives. He just vetoed a $30 million bill aimed at rewarding high-quality nursing homes.
State Budget Director Tim Keen has told agency heads to start planning for the 2014-15 budget, and he has given them just two options. One spending estimate for that two-year cycle should be for no increase over current levels, Keen has instructed. The second blueprint should be for a 10 percent reduction in spending.
Given current conditions, Kasich and Keen sound miserly. After all, the state's reserve, or "rainy day" fund, has grown to around $250 million. In addition, revenue collections have been ahead of predictions, by as much as $350 million at one point this spring.
Ohio's economy does seem to be on the rebound from recession. So why are Kasich, Keen and many conservatives in the General Assembly pinching pennies, figuratively speaking? Why not initiate some new programs and perhaps back away from some budget cuts implemented at the height of the recession?
Because, as the governor and thoughtful lawmakers recognize, things can get worse in a hurry. Economists still have not stopped worrying about a "double-dip" recession. The state's unemployment rate in May was 7.3 percent, still far from what any reasonable observer would consider healthy.
If the recovery continues, it may be possible at some point for Buckeye State residents and officials to loosen their belts and stop worrying so much about the budget. For now, however, the conservative attitude being taken is appropriate.