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For much of this gubernatorial campaign, Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland has been defending his record against charges from Republican challenger John Kasich that he has done too little to stem job losses in Ohio and responding to accusations that he still oversees a bloated state government.
Strickland’s running mate, Yvettee McGee Brown, in her own campaign speeches has echoed the governor’s. Recently she tackled a charge by Republicans that Ohio still has too many employees on the state payroll by evoking the name of one of the GOP’s favorite sons.
Ohio today has the "fewest number of state employees since the Reagan administration," McGee Brown said in an Aug. 4 speech at a candidates forum in Columbus.
Clearly, recent well-chronicled state layoffs and hiring freezes almost assure Ohio has fewer state employees than when Strickland took office in 2007. But could it be fewer than in the 1980s when Reagan was president, as Brown contends?
The Strickland campaign is looking to reverse long-held Republican opinion that Democrats favor higher taxes and bigger government.
The higher taxes issue will loom for whomever is Ohio’s next governor, given that the state faces up to an $8 billion budget deficit in the next operating budget with seemingly few options other than raising personal income taxes.
But the big government question is something Strickland has dealt with since 2009 when the last biennial budget was set and the administration laid off state workers, froze hiring in some areas and otherwise shrunk government by attrition.
Now McGee Brown has gone a step further by stating that under Strickland, Ohio now has the fewest state employees since Reagan, who was president from 1981 through 1988.
Strickland’s campaign communications team offered uneven explanations for where McGee Brown got her information. It first stated it came from a state data chart that officials could not find until, PolitiFact began inquiring three weeks after McGee Brown’s speech. It then said the information was in an October 2009 news release from the Strickland administration that the campaign never produced.
But the Ohio Department of Administrative Services bailed them out. It discovered annual employee data in a trends report that contained information dating back to 1983 and updated to include recent years.
The report shows that as of December 2009, Ohio had 58,622 employees, the lowest number since 1983 when the state had 60,292 workers. That 28-year stretch includes a period from 1991 through 2006 when Ohio’s governors were Republicans and the state had more than 65,000 employees.
We rate McGee Brown’s statement as True.
Yvette McGee Brown, campaign speech at candidates forum hosted by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, Aug. 4, 2010.
Ohio Department of Administrative Services, trends report on annual employee data and employment chart
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