Ohio Gov. John Kasich appears to have broken ranks with Grover Norquist and his Americans for Tax Reform by declaring his support for a proposed tax increase for Cleveland schools.
Rob Nichols, a spokesman for the Republican governor, said Kasich favors the 15-mill levy because Cleveland is working to restore its schools through a series of reforms before asking for more money, the Cleveland Plain Dealer
“If the governor lived in Cleveland he would vote for it and the governor will give the mayor whatever help he needs,” Nichols told the newspaper.
Cleveland Democratic Mayor Frank Jackson and the city’s business community are behind the levy, which is part of the Cleveland Plan for Transforming Schools. The levy is needed, Jackson says, to help the schools out of a $65 million budget deficit. But Cleveland officials say they will also need more money eventually from the state.
Kasich has said he plans to address school funding next year. But the Ohio Democratic Party has criticized him for signing a state budget this year that cuts public education funding. Party Chairman Chris Redfern said last week a tax increase may not have been necessary in Cleveland if Kasich had not “gutted” the education budget to begin with.
The Plain Dealer noted that backing the tax levy could cause Kasich political problems, especially with Norquist’s Washington-based lobbying group. The governor was among scores of GOP state and federal officials who signed a pledge to the conservative Americans for Tax Reform to oppose and vote against tax increases. The group in the past has worked to defeat candidates who supported tax increases.
For the moment, however, it appears Kasich may get a pass on his pledge. Josh Culling, the Ohio state affairs manager for Americans for Tax Reform, told the newspaper he doesn’t think Kasich has actually violated the pledge because he hasn’t promised to campaign for the levy, but only to work with Cleveland’s mayor on school reform issues.
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