COLUMBUS (Jan. 30, 2012) — Disparate grievances are rattling around the brain. They want out. Please indulge some Sunday moanin’ on a Sunday mornin’.
• U.S. House Speaker John Boehner of West Chester told Politico last week that he thought Republicans had gerrymandered enough congressional districts around the country to retain control of the House through 2020.
Certainly Boehner and fellow GOP map-makers did their part in Ohio. Of the 16 new districts they drew, 12 are so ironclad Republican that even Mo, Larry or Curly could win with an R behind his name. Boehner’s braying that Republicans will hold the House for another 10 years prompts this question: To what end?
Boehner already has a caucus so steeped in right-wing ideology that he can’t possibly accomplish anything. Last year, it seemed that every time Boehner even hinted that compromise might be necessary to make progress, he got slapped down by his own members, particularly the large class of tea-partying freshmen.
And now, Boehner has bargained for even more of them. He — and the country — might do better if more Republicans (and Democrats) were elected in competitive districts. Gerrymandering renders general elections mere coronations of partisan primary election winners and too often yields politicians from both parties who are far outside the mainstream.
If Boehner indeed has ensured his party’s decade-long dominance in the House by stacking it with more ideologues, he will have simultaneously undermined his own promising legacy as a pragmatic conservative leader.
• The outcry following news that major highway projects around Ohio could be long delayed because the state’s transportation budget is running a $1.6 billion deficit rattled the Statehouse like a train trembling Chicago’s Loop. What about our Inner Belt Bridge project, Cleveland officials cried. How about our I-70/71 interchange rebuild, Columbus officials hollered.
Gov. John Kasich’s response: Don’t blame me; blame my predecessors.
“Look, for many, many governors’ terms, Ohioans have been misled, plain and simple,” Kasich said. “ ‘You want a project, we’ll get you a project, don’t worry about it.’ Well, we’re $1.6 billion short.”
Kasich is absolutely right. Nothing makes the homefolks happier, or a governor more popular, than promising highway and bridge projects, never mind if there’s no money for them. Kasich had the courage to halt the charade, knowing full well his popularity would take another hit.
“A lot of folks are mad, but we didn’t find it surprising because we saw this day coming,” Christopher Runyan, president of the Ohio Contractors Association, told me last week. “We knew the state didn’t have that much money.”
If local officials want their highway projects, they ought to advocate for an increase in the gasoline tax. Every penny per gallon produces about $40 million for road and bridge projects. Kasich’s GOP predecessors, George V. Voinovich and Bob Taft, increased the gas tax, but Kasich has ruled it out, saying, “We want to be competitive.”
But having a viable transportation system is a key element in economic competitiveness. And every penny of gas tax used for highway and bridge construction creates jobs and the demand for materials, stimulating the economy.
“Refusing to stay on top of our need for infrastructure improvements in this country, with the preferred revenue stream coming from those who use the improvements (motorists), is the epitome of cutting off one’s nose to spite the face,” Runyan said.
• As if legalizing concealed guns in bars weren’t already the craziest law ever enacted by an Ohio legislature, some of our lawmakers now propose passing bills to do the following: Allow guns to be brought to the Statehouse parking garage and into places of worship and day-care centers and onto college campuses.
Legislators behind these bills have checked common sense at the door. Joe Hallett, The Columbus Dispatch.