Ohios first gubernatorial debate of the campaign season focused heavily on the state budget and which candidate would best manage it. Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, said he has been prudent with the states money, cutting taxes and spending for the current two-year cycle.
Republican challenger John Kasich, however, repeatedly declared that the current budget actually increased spending by 10.7 percent this year. The charge prompted Strickland to call for the fact checkers to examine Kasichs statement.
PolitiFact Ohio couldn't pass up the invitation.
When lawmakers and wonks around Capitol Square talk about the state budget, they are almost always referring to the general revenue fund budget, or the GRF, which contains virtually all of Ohios tax revenues. The GRF is on pace to be $50.6 billion for the 2010-11 fiscal years, according to state spending reports available through mid-July. Thats down from $52.5 billion for the 2008-09 budget, a reduction of about $1.9 billion. So Strickland is correct when he says spending is down.
Kasich, however, instead was talking about the states all-funds budget, which includes the use of billions in federal stimulus dollars outside the GRF. The all-funds budget is estimated at $112.3 billion in the current budget, up from $102.1 billion in 2008-09. Thats an increase of about 9.9 percent from Stricklands first budget to his second budget.
The all-funds budget also includes general revenue fund money, billions in pass-through money for state and local governments such as the piggy-back sales tax that counties are allowed to add to the state tab plus state and federal fees that are slated for specific programs. The all-funds budget also includes some double-counting, as money is shifted within line items in a state agency.
So how does Kasich get to that 10.7 percent figure? With an apples to oranges comparison.
He uses actual all-funds spending in 2010 compared to projected all-funds spending in the 2011 fiscal year, which is only about three months old right now. The state did not spend $3.3 billion that was appropriated for use in fischal 2010. But by using actual spending for that year, Kasich's comparison actual makes that count against the administration because it inflates the percentage greatly.
While Strickland says thats an inaccurate and misleading way to look at the budget, Republicans argue that the all-funds budget is becoming more relevant because the GRF is shrinking, representing about 54 percent of the entire budget a decade ago and about 45 percent in the current fiscal year.
The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, for example, was moved from the GRF budget to the all-funds budget under Gov. Bob Taft. Strickland chose to move the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Commerce completely out of the GRF budget during the most recent budget.
And the current all-funds budget does include several new fees attached to it, including a new hospital assessment fee worth $708 million and $390 million worth of new nursing home franchise fees.
So let's cut to the chase:
Kasich is picking something other than the usual budget figures by choosing an all-funds number to make his claim.
- And by comparing actual spending in 2010 to proposed spending in 2011, he gets a result that punishes the Strickland administration for doing what taxpayers want -- not spending $3.3 billion that had been allotted for 2010.
That seems misleading especially since if he were to compare apples to apples -- all-funds proposed spending in 2010 to all-funds proposed spending in 2011 -- the figure would rise only 1.7 percent.
As a consequence, we rate his statement to be Barely True.
Editor's note: This statement was rated Barely True when it was published. On July 27, 2011, we changed the name for the rating to Mostly False.