Ohioans give Strickland pass on economy

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Republicans had a field day recently after the governor of Kansas came to Ohio and commended Gov. Ted Strickland for the job he’s done turning around the state’s economy.

Look at the record, they said:

4Unemployment in the state hit a five-year high of 6.3 percent in May, according to figures from the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

Email newsletter signup

4Layoffs doubled in May, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

4Thousands of jobs have been lost since Strickland took office, including from General Motors Corp., ABX Air, and DHL Express.

4The number of Ohioans receiving food stamps and public assistance is up 9.4 percent in central Ohio from a year ago.

4Ohio ranks ninth nationally in its rate of home foreclosures.

4The state is failing to attract high-technology jobs, as Strickland had promised, according to a new Milken Institute study.

“Ted Strickland said he had a plan to turn the state’s economy around without raising taxes, but so far he’s failed to deliver,” said Kevin DeWine, deputy chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, in a statement.

Granted, the situation is bleak. Hardly an indicator has seen an uptick since Strickland took office and placed his righthand man, Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher, in charge of economic development.

Still, the Strickland administration argues that Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius was justified in remarks complimenting the governor’s efforts, delivered during the Ohio Democratic Party’s annual dinner June 21.

Strickland, Ohio’s first Democrat in the governor’s mansion since Richard Celeste left in 1991 after two terms, has been in office only 15 months and has spearheaded initiatives that haven’t yet had a chance to work, they say. Examples:

4The state’s first major rewrite of energy policy in a decade, which includes incentives for developing solar, wind and other alternative energy sources. Strickland signed the bill May 1, and it doesn’t take effect until July 31.

4A $1.57 billion economic stimulus package, signed in June, that includes $50 million for the development of bioproducts such as polymers and plastics; $100 million for the biomedical industry; $150 million on advanced energy initiatives; $200 million to preserve farmland and green spaces; as well as other efforts aimed at boosting the economy.

4A new vision for Ohio’s public colleges and universities, which begins with a two-year tuition freeze and takes Ohio tuitions to among the lowest in the nation within a decade.

As the fall election approaches, Republicans will certainly continue to remind Ohioans of their growing economic misery under Strickland. Strickland, meanwhile, will seek to deflect blame by emphasizing the steps he’s taking to improve things.

A pair of closely timed polls released earlier this month reveal that average Ohioans, largely unexposed to the early political jabs, have mixed feelings on the subject.

The University of Cincinnati’s Ohio Poll, taken between May 16 and June 4, showed the economy hurting Strickland’s generally stellar popularity rating.

As the accusations begin to really fly, it will be useful to remember what pollsters already know: Who is more to blame all depends on how you ask the question.

Julie Carr Smyth is a reporter for The Associated Press.