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Is Husted setting a tone for possible gubernatorial bid?

By Marc Kovac Capital Bureau Chief Published: December 28, 2016 12:00 AM

COLUMBUS -- In what could be considered one of the first salvos of the 2018 gubernatorial contest, Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted announced this month that he doesn't want any taxpayer money in the next biennial budget cycle to pay for his office expenses.

Husted is one of several candidates rumored to considering a run for governor -- Attorney General Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor are on that list, too.

What better way to kick off a campaign than to tell the voting public that you managed your last statewide office so well that you don't need any more of their money to keep things going?

Husted's press release began, "As a result of wise financial management over the past six years," and added, " As a result, the secretary's most recent biennial operating budget proposal requests a 100 percent reduction in GRF support."

And, "If approved by the state legislature in 2017, this move will save Ohio taxpayers $4.76 million over the next two years."

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Boom.

"It's one thing to talk about reducing the size and cost of government, it's another thing to actually do it," Husted said in a released statement. "We are delivering better services at lower prices, cutting unnecessary administrative bureaucracy and have now eliminated the need for taxpayer funding. As a result, those savings can now be used to support tax cuts, education and workforce development."

How does Husted manage all of this? With filing and other fees paid by businesses to his office.

You may recall those business filing fees were cut last budget cycle, so those affected were already paying less. Still, there's enough money flowing in, combined with surpluses from past payments, to cover the $18 million or so in costs to run the office over the next two fiscal years.

Also consider, according to the release, that Husted says he has cut spending by $14.5 million, operated with nearly 32 percent fewer staffers and reduced payroll costs to their lowest level in nine years.

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And this: "During the biennial budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017, Secretary Husted was the only statewide officeholder to request a reduction, not an increase, in his office's funding."

Combine all of that with the fact that the state if facing a tight budget over the coming biennium, with revenues coming in below initial projections and troubling economic signs.

"Recently, Gov. Kasich warned lawmakers that balancing the upcoming state budget will be challenging as tax revenues are coming up short, which means that everyone is going to have to tighten their belts," Husted said. "In my office, we're doing our part. We're not just going to reduce our budget, we are seeking a 100 percent cut in our taxpayer funding for the remainder of my time as secretary of state."

Husted, if/when he does enter the governor's race, will have something positive to talk about out of the gate.

So will Taylor and DeWine and others if/when they formally launch their campaigns.

That might signal a refreshing change of pace for the gubernatorial campaign -- candidates talking about their accomplishments and their plans instead of tearing each other apart with personal attacks.

But we shall see.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.


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