In his Statehouse office, Governor John R. Kasich let loose on fellow Republicans in Washington.
“I’m concerned about the fact there seems to be a war on the poor,” he said. “That if you’re poor, somehow you’re shiftless and lazy.”
Few have gone further than Gov. Kasich in critiquing his party’s views on poverty programs. Last week, he circumvented his own Republican legislature by using a little-known state board to expand Medicaid to 275,000 poor Ohioans under President Obama’s health care law.
Gov. Kasich has surprised some former critics with his championing of Ohio’s disadvantaged, which he frames as a matter of Christian compassion.
He embodies conventional Republican fiscal priorities, but he defies many conservatives in believing government should ensure a strong social safety net. In his three years as governor, he has expanded programs for the mentally ill, fought the nursing home lobby to bring down Medicaid costs and backed Cleveland’s Democratic mayor, Frank Jackson, in raising local taxes to improve schools. To some, those moves are a reaction to the defeat Gov. Kasich suffered in 2011 when voters in a statewide referendum overturned a law stripping public employees of bargaining rights.
He still angers many on the left; he signed a budget in June that cut revenues to local governments and mandates that women seeking an abortion listen to the fetal heartbeat. Ohioans earning in the top 1% will see a $6,000 tax cut under the latest budget passed by the Republican-led legislature, while those in the bottom fifth will see a $12 increase, according to Policy Matters Ohio.
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