For three hours, workers, union members and supporters chanted and waived signs like this one:
“I think [Kasich] wears earplugs when it comes to anybody except the money class,” said demonstrator Joyce Asfour told Fox 19. “I’m sorry. I just don’t have much faith in him.”
The Ohio Senate approved S.B. 5, which may affect domestic partner benefits for state workers. The Ohio House it is currently being debating the bill, and Kasich is expected to sign the bill. Preliminary efforts to petition for an S.B. 5 ballot referendum are already underway.
Ohioans also rallied concurrently in Vandalia, Maumee, Oberlin, Jefferson, Mansfield, Salem, Westerville, Akron, Portsmouth, Strongsville, Stuebenville and Cambridge.
Protestors also gathered in Mason, a suburb north of Cincinnati, to hold U.S. Sen. Rob Portman and U.S. Representatives Jean Schmidt, Michael Turner and John Boehner accountable for supporting what they call the Republicans’ “immoral budget proposal.”
Organizers cite the recent federal budget cuts, which they say would include cutting 43.2 million dollars in funding for Education for Disadvantaged Students, $34.6 million in funding for School Improvements, $215 million in funds for Pell Grants, and $59.8 million in funding for the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) job training.
These rallies coincided with Kasich’s budget town hall meeting in Columbus, where he was met by dozens of union protestors.
Many details of the Ohio budget are still unclear, Kaisch calling it a work in progress, and his top advisers dodged questions about annual spending increases. But Kasich did pledge to privatize more government agencies and services. (Read: Sell off government agencies and services, like the prison system and the lottery, to his friends at the expense of Ohioans.)
According to The Cincinnati Enquirer, Kasich promised:
- More oversight of Medicaid, although spending on the federal program will continue to grow by $1 billion annually. Medicaid comprises 30 percent of Ohio’s $60 billion budget in fiscal year 2013, including all federal matching dollars.
- Better coordination of mental health services
- To offer the state’s health care coverage to local governments to save money and ask union workers to pay more toward premiums
- To sell liquor distribution rights to raise money for job-development programs
- To honor pay increases contained in the third year of a union contract that ends next February. The extra pay offsets lost personal days and unpaid furloughs by state workers – concessions to balance former Gov. Ted Strickland’s last budget.
- To double vouchers for school choice, eliminating a waiting list for parents who want to transfer their children from public to privately operated charter schools
- Bonuses for teachers – $50 for each student who shows marked improvement
- A closer look at adding slot machines to Ohio’s horse tracks or legalizing casinos operated by indigenous tribes. Kasich thinks Ohio voters gave four private casino developers – including one planned at Broadway Commons in downtown Cincinnati – too large a share of gambling profits in the 2009 ballot issue.
- Study the concept of semi-private charter universities to give now-public colleges more flexibility. That would eliminate the requirement that they hire multiple prime contractors and pay prevailing wage on construction projects, to keep tuition down. It also caps annual tuition growth at 3.5 percent.
Privatization is bad news for Ohio. There’s no transparency and there’s very little accountability. Taxpayer money goes to corporations, which are driven to maximize profits — not to do what’s best for the people. And when profits are at stake, a myriad of ethical issues can arise, like the case of two Pennsylvania judges accepting bribes from a private youth detention center in return for giving hundreds of youths and teenagers long sentences.