States Wrestle With Their Own Budget Showdowns

Guests

Ken Rudin, political editor, NPR
Mike Mulcahy, political editor, Minnesota Public Radio
Karen Kasler, bureau chief, Ohio Public Radio's State House News Bureau

Minnesota's state government shut down in late June when Republican lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton failed to reach a budget agreement. But in Ohio, Gov. John Kasich managed to close a massive deficit without raising taxes, mainly through deep spending cuts.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

NEAL CONAN, host: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. Romney rakes it in, Newt's in the red, and budget debt ceilings and government shutdowns. It's Wednesday and time for an ultimatum edition of the Political Junkie.

RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.

WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad: Where's the beef?

BARRY GOLDWATER: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

LLOYD BENTSEN: Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

RICHARD NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.

SARAH PALIN: Lipstick.

GEORGE BUSH: But I'm the decider.

(SOUNDBITE OF SCREAM)

CONAN: Every Wednesday, Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us to recap the week in politics. Mitt Romney pulls in an impressive $18 million while T-Paw hoped to bank more. Thad McCotter jumps into the GOP race. The president hosts a Twitter town hall. California's special congressional election gets nasty, New York's gets a date, and Nevada's gets a ruling.

In a bit, we'll focus on the budget battles here in Washington and in St. Paul, where there is no agreement, and Columbus where there is. Later in the program what we can learn from the sensation that surrounded the Casey Anthony trial. But first Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us as usual here in Studio 3A. And as usual, we begin with a trivia question. Ken, is the trivia question Thad McCotter?

KEN RUDIN: We don't have enough Thad McCotter. Matter of fact, I get emails from people who are very Thad about that because...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RUDIN: Well, anyway, Thad McCotter, Republican congressman from Michigan in his fifth term, announced the other day that he is running for president because America needs more Republican candidates for president. Two other members of the House, Ron Paul and Michele Bachmann, are also running.

But it's less - it's very rare that a member of the House will win a presidential primary. So the question is: Who were the last Republican and Democratic House members to win a presidential primary?

CONAN: When they were serving as members of the House of Representatives.

RUDIN: They were sitting members of Congress, or reclining members of Congress.

CONAN: If you think you know the answer, the last Republican and Democratic members of the House of Representatives to win a presidential primary, give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. The winner, of course, gets a fabulous Political Junkie no-prize t-shirt.

And well, we've mentioned Thad McCotter twice. That's twice more than I've ever heard of him before.

RUDIN: Well, he's first elected to Congress in 2002. He's from the Detroit suburbs, and that perhaps is one of the reasons why he alone among all the Republican candidates supported the auto bailout. And of course, some Republicans will say there's no way you could ever win a Republican primary with such a position, but maybe in Michigan, you can win a primary that way, although we don't even know if Michigan's going to have a primary or a caucus.

Nonetheless, McCotter apparently said that, well, he sees all the polls, and he sees that we keep saying on Political Junkie that...

CONAN: Oh yes, I'm sure he cited us, yes.

RUDIN: Well, I think he should have - that most of the Republicans are dissatisfied with the field or want more candidates. So who better than Thad McCotter?

CONAN: And some might argue he wouldn't even be Michigan's favorite son. That would be reserved for Mitt Romney, whose father was governor of that state.

RUDIN: Exactly. But I think a lot of it is based on opposition to Romney because Romney, of course, opposed the auto bailout. And while McCotter's labor voting record, AFL-CIO voting record is like 36 percent, it's still higher than any other Republican in the field.

CONAN: In the meantime, Mitt Romney did very well. We're talking about, some people say, the first fundraisers, in fact the financial fundraiser. And he raked in $18 million last quarter.

RUDIN: In the second quarter, right. Well, it's good news, bad news. I mean, yes he has raised more money than the entire - the rest of the Republican field combined, and we can talk about who else - how much the others raised. But he did raise - this is less than he raised last time he ran for president, in 2007, although - and it's far less than what George W. Bush - I think he raised half of what George W. Bush raised in the second quarter in 1999.

But having said that, he's spending far less than he spent in 2007, and again we love that word frontrunner. With financial numbers alone, money-raising numbers alone, it looks like Mitt Romney is heads and shoulders above the field. But again, he was heads and shoulders above the field four years ago and didn't get the nomination.

CONAN: Meanwhile, Tim Pawlenty disappointed second quarter.

RUDIN: 4.2 million dollars. And again, he has been hoping to be the alternative to Mitt Romney and hoping to raise a lot of money. But the rest of the Republican field is really, you know, in the low single digits. Ron Paul 4.5 million. Most of that is online. Pawlenty, as you said, 4.2 million; Jon Huntsman 4.1 million, a lot of it or at least half of it, I think, came from his own pocket.

Newt Gingrich, though, is interesting, I think.

CONAN: Yeah, 2 million forward, 1 million back.

RUDIN: Exactly. He's in debt and, you know, he knew - the whole campaign knew that raising money would be a problem for them. One thing I think is going to be very interesting is we have not heard from Michele Bachmann yet, and I don't know if this is the reason she's doing it, but I suspect that one of the reasons she's holding off - well, she did announce late, but it's very possible that if she comes in with a huge number or a surprising number, again she'll rake in all the headlines.

CONAN: Well, latest polls showing Mitt Romney continuing to be well ahead of the field in New Hampshire. Again, this is a long way out, but it's still tight in Iowa. And I was interested in this clip that we have for you from Mitt Romney. Here he's clearly taking his stance for the general election.

MITT ROMNEY: So at a time we wanted small business and entrepreneurs to step forward to get the economy going again, what he did caused them to pull back. And so he made the recession deeper and made it last longer and the recovery more anemic. He made things worse.

CONAN: Clearly focusing on who he presumes will be his rival in the general election, President Obama. Getting a little ahead of himself?

RUDIN: Well, you know something? He did basically what Hillary Clinton, the erstwhile frontrunner for the Democrats in 2008 did, that she focused all her ire on the Republican Party and President Bush, who of course wasn't running for a third term but was the commander in chief, whereas the other Democrats were just fighting for the nomination.

You know, it may be premature, but obviously, that's what a frontrunner wants to do.

CONAN: We have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question, that is the last Republican and the last Democrat to win a presidential primary while sitting as a member of the United States House of Representatives. Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. And we'll start with Albert. Albert with us from Lake Havasu in Arizona.

ALBERT (Caller): Hi, I think I might have misunderstood, but I was going with John Anderson.

RUDIN: Well, that's not a bad guess. John Anderson did finish second in a bunch of primaries. He was a Republican congressman from Illinois, ran against the field that included Ronald Reagan in 1980. He finished second in Massachusetts and Illinois, but he never won a primary.

CONAN: He eventually ran as an independent. But thanks very much for the call. Let's see if we can go next, this is Dan. Dan's on the line from Oakland.

DAN (Caller): Hi, the Democrat, I would say Mo Udall back in '76, I believe, my guess.

RUDIN: Well, Mo Udall again also ran very well in the Democratic primaries and finished - but he also finished second, second to Jimmy Carter in New Hampshire, second to Jimmy Carter in Wisconsin but never won a primary.

CONAN: Thanks for the call. Let's see if we can go next to - this is John(ph) and John's with us from Buffalo.

JOHN (Caller): I had Mo Udall and Jack Kemp.

RUDIN: Well, we mentioned Udall is not the right answer, and Jack Kemp - I don't think Jack Kemp ever finished second. He may have finished second a bunch of times...

CONAN: Well, he finished second running for vice president.

RUDIN: He did, in the - yes, but when he ran for president in 1988, others in the field were George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole. Kemp never won a primary.

CONAN: Thanks very much for the call. Let's go next to - this is Bob, Bob with us from Rochester in Minnesota.

BOB (Caller): Hello. Minnesota, this is Bob Sixta(ph). How are you guys?

CONAN: Good, thanks.

RUDIN: Bob, we haven't heard from you in a week.

BOB: Yeah, a new week. Now do we have to get both the Democrat and the Republican?

RUDIN: Either one.

CONAN: Either one.

BOB: Oh, either one? It was Dick Gephardt for the Democrats. He won the South Dakota primary in 1988 and also won the Iowa caucus.

RUDIN: Well, yes, Dick Gephardt is the right answer for the Democrats.

CONAN: Ding, ding, ding.

RUDIN: And of course, you forgot that Gephardt also won his home state primary of Missouri.

CONAN: Even so, you're going to get a Political Junkie t-shirt, Bob. Congratulations.

BOB: All right, thank you very much.

CONAN: We'll put you on hold - and in exchange for his particulars, Bob is going to promise us another digital picture of himself wearing a Political Junkie t-shirt. In the meantime, some updates on some of these special congressional elections that are coming up around the country. We're going to be focusing on the budget problems in just a minute, but stay tuned for that.

But one in California to replace Jane Harman, that's getting a little nasty.

RUDIN: It is, and first of all, it's next Tuesday. It's the 36th District, where Jane Harman left, and it's really a solidly Democratic district, but the Democrat, Janice Hahn, who's a Los Angeles city council member, part of a big family, she's running pretty negative ads against the Republican, Craig Huey, and you wonder if it's going to be closer than some think.

Most people think the Democrats will keep it, but the fact that she's really taking on after Huey, and of course his two brothers...

CONAN: Louie and Dewey?

RUDIN: That's correct, makes you think that it may be closer than some think. But I think most people feel the Democrats keep the seat.

CONAN: And New York. Anthony Weiner no longer with us, and...

RUDIN: Politically.

CONAN: Politically, and so there's going to be a special election. A date has been picked.

RUDIN: September 13th, and of course the Democratic county leaders in Brooklyn and Queens will pick the nominee, unlike the special election in Nevada, where Dean Heller left to become the new senator in Nevada when John Ensign resigned from the Senate. And in that race, it was supposed to be a wide-open primary, and Democrats thought they would have a chance of winning that because you had like five Republicans, including Sharron Angle, in the race and only one Democrat, so they would win it.

But the Supreme Court yesterday announced that...

CONAN: The Nevada Supreme Court.

RUDIN: The Nevada State Supreme Court said that the leaders can pick their own nominees. So there is one Republican, Mark Amodei, who's a former Republican state chair, and he's going to be running against Kate Marshall, the state treasurer. This is a seat that has not gone Democratic in its history. It was only created in '82, but it's a solid Republican seat.

Sharron Angle, who is not running in this special election, is perhaps looking at 2012, when Nevada gets a new seat, and perhaps she'll run in one of those new - with redistricting, she may run in one of those seats.

CONAN: Are there any people emerging to run for the Weiner seat?

RUDIN: There are a bunch of people. Melinda Katz, some city council members. I see a bunch of names out there. But there's no way in the world that the Republicans have a shot at it. But more importantly, it's very unlikely that the Democrat will be around in 2012, because that district will be eliminated in redistricting.

CONAN: Meantime, one of those odd events that is going to happen more and more often as we get closer and closer to primary elections, that's a parade in New Hampshire where two Republican candidates run into each other.

RUDIN: Well, it's a small state, and of course a small state, you have 8,000 members of the state legislature there, go figure that, but - no, it's actually 400-some-odd members. But...

CONAN: Very odd members.

RUDIN: Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman came across each other at a rally July Fourth weekend. They had - they shared a handshake, lots of laughs, but you will see that more and more.

CONAN: And as we speak, the president is holding a Twitter town meeting. He's had one on YouTube, he's had one on Facebook. I guess LinkedIn will be next. But in any case, stay tuned to NPR News for full coverage later today on ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. And stay with us. Political Junkie Ken Rudin will be here as we look at the budget problems in, well, Washington, D.C.; in Columbus, Ohio, where there is agreement; and in St. Paul, Minnesota, where there isn't, big-time. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "I WANNA GROW UP TO BE A POLITICIAN")

ROGER MCGUINN: (Singing) ...I'll make you glad you got me in with everything I do. And I'll defend until the end the old red, white, and blue. I want to grow up to be a politician and take over this beautiful land. And take over this beautiful land. And take over this beautiful land.

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. And Political Junkie Ken Rudin is with us, as he is every Wednesday. If that's not enough for you, you can go to npr.org/junkie, read his blog, solve that devilish ScuttleButton puzzle, and, well, there's also a podcast you can download.

And Ken, of course, provides us the answer to a trivia question every week. We answered the Democratic side of the last sitting member of Congress to win a political primary. We never got the Republican side. Ken?

RUDIN: That was a tougher one, and that was John Burns, a congressman from Wisconsin, who won the Wisconsin Republican primary in 1964.

CONAN: Was he a close friend of Thad McCotter's?

RUDIN: No. Thad McCotter doesn't have any friends, and that's very thad. But also, about the Twitter town hall meeting of the president, this will be much different than the Anthony Weiner Twitter town hall meeting that he had. Yes.

CONAN: Over the weekend, the president played host to...

RUDIN: Comment, Neal? OK.

CONAN: No. Speaker John Boehner to finish talks over how to cut the budget. Since then, the president has toned down his rhetoric a bit, the speaker a little less so. Tomorrow, leaders from both parties on the Hill will head to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for what's being dubbed a deficit summit.

By now, you know what to expect to hear going into that meeting. Democrats will demand the GOP concede to tax increases on the wealthiest if they're going to play nice. In just a few minutes, we'll talk with Minnesota Public Radio's Mike Mulcahy about the government shutdown and state budget in his state, and with Karen Kasler at the statehouse in Ohio about Governor John Kasich's big budget win there.

But first, political junkie Ken Rudin on the president's budget fight - he has high hopes, the president said, high hopes at a White House news conference yesterday.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS CONFERENCE)

President BARACK OBAMA: I believe that right now, we've got a unique opportunity to do something big, to tackle our deficit in a way that forces our government to live within its means, that puts our economy on a stronger footing for the future and still allows us to invest in that future.

CONAN: And Ken, when Republicans hear that word invest, they hear the word spend.

RUDIN: They do. And they hear taxes, and they've not budged on it. Now, the fact that President Obama had House Speaker John Boehner over for a chat on Sunday seemed to indicate that something - if it's not imminent, something is serious. Obviously, they may be talking more seriously, but...

CONAN: Well, August 2nd is the deadline, and really, they say it should be earlier than that to make sure all the paperwork goes through.

RUDIN: Well, and some people say, you know, that this is a deadline because the Treasury Secretary Geithner decided it was a deadline. The Republicans are not convinced it is a true deadline. And if you listen to Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate, he still is not budging at all on the T-word, taxes, even including - even closing tax loopholes.

So, you know, I know they're bringing the leaders to the White House tomorrow, but I don't know how close they are to solving this.

CONAN: And eventually, somebody's going to have to blink, or they have to figure out a way for both sides to blink.

RUDIN: Well, and that's exactly it. And remember when George H.W. Bush - we've said this before - but when the first President Bush blinked on taxes in 1990, that spurred a challenge...

CONAN: Well, he'd said read my lips, no new taxes.

RUDIN: He said that in 1988, and in 1990, he changed his mind during these budget talks. It got Pat Buchanan in the race as a serious primary challenger. It got the ire of conservatives, who either backed Ross Perot or sat home. So Republicans switch their position on revenue at their own peril.

CONAN: And this is in the era of the Tea Party, and all those Republicans, especially in the House, worried about challenges from the right in their primaries.

RUDIN: And they promised no new taxes when they campaigned for the election in 2010.

CONAN: Even though they look at the national polls, which suggest that this issue is playing to the Democrats' benefit.

RUDIN: Well, maybe. I mean, we don't know how it'll play in 2012. But we do know there is a fundamental difference between Democrats and Republicans on what the essential role of government is. Is it to keep taxes low? Is it to provide services? You probably can't do both, and both parties are trying to make the case right now that their way is right.

Obviously, both sides made that - tried to make that case in Minnesota, and right now there's a complete deadlock in Minnesota.

CONAN: Well, let's go right there. Joining us from MPR in St. Paul is Mike Mulcahy, Minnesota Public Radio's news political editor. And Mike, nice to have you with us on what must be a very hectic day there.

MIKE MULCAHY: Well, thanks, Neal. It's good to be here.

CONAN: And as I understand, talks are going on right now between the legislative leaders in the Republican Party and Democratic Governor Mark Dayton.

MULCAHY: Well, actually, they pushed them back a little. So it'll be in about an hour that they meet again.

CONAN: I could never get those time zones straight, anyway.

MULCAHY: Well, they actually changed the schedule. But they met yesterday for about an hour, their first meeting since the government shut down on Friday, and not much happened. In fact, if anything, they went a little backwards yesterday.

CONAN: Backwards? How so?

MULCAHY: Well, they had spent the past week - before the government actually shut down on Friday - behind closed doors, not talking to the press, negotiating, and they had made a little bit of progress. And then yesterday after they met, they said all that was off the table, all that is history. They're back to their original positions.

CONAN: And their original positions can be summed up very similar to the debt ceiling talks here in Washington, D.C., no?

MULCAHY: Well, yes. The governor, Mark Dayton, a Democrat, has been firm that part of the budget solution has to be an increase in income taxes on the top earners in the state. And the Republicans, who control both houses of the legislature here, have been just as firm, saying the state has to live within its means, no more money, no more revenue, $34 billion is the top, the highest they'll go for the next two-year budget.

CONAN: And this resulted last Friday in a government shutdown, partial government shutdown. Essential services are being continued.

MULCAHY: Right. And that has to do with what the court has decided, which basically is to say that some services need to continue, and those are basically health care for the poor and the sick, veterans' homes, things like that, and just some basic services need to continue operating.

CONAN: State police, one would assume, yes.

MULCAHY: Right, the police, the prisons, things like that: public safety and health care.

CONAN: But over the Fourth of July weekend, things like state parks were closed.

MULCAHY: Right. And that was probably the biggest impact, given that it was a long holiday weekend. The state parks closed. Nobody can camp in the state parks. And the rest stops on the freeways are closed. So if people are passing through, they have to either go to a gas station, or they have to wait until they get to the state line.

CONAN: Or as we used to say, go visit Mrs. Murphy. But the - some former - gray heads are trying to come in and help clean up the mess.

MULCAHY: Well, yesterday, former Vice President Walter Mondale, a Democrat, and former Governor Arne Carlson, a Republican, said they would convene what they called a blue-ribbon commission of former politicians and businesspeople and economic experts to come up with a plan to break this gridlock. And they hope to have some kind of suggestion by the end of the week.

The DFL governor, the Democratic governor, Mark Dayton said he's willing to listen. Republicans in the legislature are a little more skeptical. They are saying that, you know, they were elected to get the job done. They should be able to do it themselves.

I should also mention that the Republicans, a lot of them have disowned former Governor Arne Carlson. They say that he's much more liberal than they are, and he has been Tim Pawlenty's - one of his biggest critics as Pawlenty has run for president. He's the former Republican governor here.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Ken?

RUDIN: Yeah, Mike, I was going to say that Arne Carlson has never a favorite of conservative Republicans in Minnesota, anyway. But here's the thing. In November, for the first time in four decades, Republicans won both houses of the state legislature, promising to limit spending and offer cuts. Mark Dayton became the first Democratic governor in 20 years by promising to tax the wealthy. So voters basically got what they asked for, although that's a very strange confluence, isn't it?

MULCAHY: Well, absolutely. They wanted divided government, apparently, and that's what they got. And yeah, it's - Mark Dayton made no secret on the campaign trail that this was his plan, and he summarized it as tax the rich. And he ran on it for more than a year as a candidate for governor.

Now, he did win the election by fewer than 9,000 votes. So it was kind of a squeaker. And, of course, in statewide elections here in Minnesota, we have not two parties, but three parties: the Democrats, the Republicans and the Independence Party, the party of Jesse Ventura. And so that always plays a role, too.

But what the Democrats say is that if you add the votes that Dayton got and the votes that the Independence Party candidate got, well, that means that a majority of people do support a tax increase because both of those candidates were advocating for tax changes that would mean higher taxes to help solve this budget problem, which everybody knew was coming, even last year.

CONAN: Well, do the Independents have enough votes in the legislature to vote with the Democrats and pass a budget?

MULCAHY: The simple answer to that question is no, the Independence Party really only a factor in statewide elections. They don't have any seats in the legislature, and the Republicans are in clear control of the legislature.

CONAN: And this is not the first shutdown in Minnesota history.

MULCAHY: No. In fact there was one six years ago, in 2005, when Tim Pawlenty was the governor. It was much more of a partial shutdown than this one. But that was really the first one in the state's history, and that was finally resolved after nine days, and part of the resolution there was - it wasn't a tax, at least nobody called it a tax. They called it a health impact fee.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

MULCAHY: It was a 75-cent-per-pack fee on cigarettes, and that helped break the deadlock back then. And, you know, Tim Pawlenty has actually been in the state. He was in the state last week talking about that 2005 shutdown, and now he has a commercial running in Iowa that says he won that shutdown, but he doesn't mention that cigarette fee that was part of the solution.

RUDIN: Mike, what blame, if any, is Pawlenty getting for this situation as it now stands?

MULCAHY: Well, clearly, the Democrats are blaming him. They say that he left the state in this mess with - facing an overall $5 billion problem, shortfall, in the next two years. They blame him for doing that. They say that over the past eight years he used a lot of one-time fixes and delays and accounting shifts to actually balance the budget rather than dealing with the underlying structural problems, which would've required either permanent spending cuts or permanent revenue increases.

They say that because he didn't do that, the problem got bigger, and it was passed on to Mark Dayton. Now, the Republicans and Pawlenty himself say, well, he was only obligated to balance the current budget, the one that expired on July 1st, and he did that. And that, you know, some of the spending projections for the next two years are way out of line and he would never allow those to take effect if he were still the governor. So, you know, that's one more thing they're arguing about here in Minnesota.

CONAN: Well, no end in sight there, but, Mike Mulcahy, thanks very much for your time today.

MULCAHY: You bet. Thank you.

CONAN: Mike Mulcahy, the political editor at Minnesota Public Radio from their studios in St. Paul. Karen Kasler is the bureau chief at the Statehouse News Bureau for Ohio Public Radio. She joined us from the studio there in Columbus. Nice to have you with us back on the program.

KAREN KASLER: Good afternoon.

CONAN: And all quiet on the Ohio.

KASLER: Very quiet. You know, we signed our budget here in Ohio last Thursday. Friday, there was a sit-down with Governor Kasich, the speaker of the Ohio House and the president of the Ohio Senate, and they were very happy sitting in chairs at the governor's residence talking and laughing and joking with reporters, very happy that the budget had been signed on time. And everybody, at least on the Republican side, agreed on the budget for the most part.

Democrats didn't like it at all. The vote for the budget was strictly along party lines in the House and Senate. And I don't think Democrats pretty much got anything they wanted in this budget, but, certainly, Governor Kasich and his supporters in the House and Senate did.

CONAN: And Governor Kasich won not just on the budget but on a bunch of other items because Republicans control - solid control of both the Senate and the legislature.

KASLER: Absolutely. Republicans dominate two-to-one in the Senate, and they also control the House. And so there was no question that this budget was going to get through. And it was interesting to see it come this close to the timeline, to the June 30th deadline, but they got it through and signed. And everyone is gone now. It's very quiet here.

CONAN: And this is one of the states with the two-year budget. There was a big gap that needed to be filled. How did they do it?

KASLER: That's a really good question because there are a lot of people who were asking that. There was an $8 billion estimated budget deficit, and Republicans say they filled that $8 billion hole without raising taxes. In fact, they cut taxes. They cut the estate tax here in Ohio, eliminated it, and they also preserved an income tax cut. And they actually increased spending over the last budget from former Democratic Governor Ted Strickland. So it's interesting to see how all this happened.

Some of it happened with privatization. We will be privatizing six of our prisons. The Ohio Turnpike could be privatized. We're also privatizing the state's liquor profits to create a private entity, Jobs Ohio, which will invest in companies on behalf of the state of Ohio, so to speak. And then there's also another program called Invest Ohio. People who invest in Ohio-based companies would get income tax credits of up to 10 percent. So there's an awful lot of things going on with tax policy in this budget.

CONAN: The Washington, D.C. budget battle gets an awful lot of attention and oxygen. We're talking right now about budget battles in state capitals. You're listening to Political Junkie and TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. Ken?

RUDIN: Karen, as you said, John Kasich, obviously, the Republicans were not going to raise taxes, and as you pointed out, they eliminated the estate tax. But doesn't that ultimately fall on local governments, and does that mean that local governments are now going to have to raise taxes?

KASLER: Well, on local governments and schools, they consider themselves the losers in this budget. They were cut about $2 billion total. A lot of that was federal stimulus dollars that was not replaced, but yeah, the estate tax in Ohio, 80 percent of that went to those local communities. So, yeah, they're going to be hurting a little bit and they've said so, said as much. And, you know, the governor has talked about maybe they can share some services and do some things that maybe can cut costs, but local governments are definitely hurting here.

And, you know, the prediction is going to be that maybe state taxes are going to be lower, but that local taxes are going to be higher in those communities and at those school districts because they just have less money and they have to replace it somehow.

CONAN: We see the opinion polls show that John Kasich and the Republicans are not necessarily popular for these kinds of decisions. But as we look down the road to 2012, well, if the economy improves, is the credit going to go to the Republicans or is it going to go to President Obama?

KASLER: That's an interesting question, and I think some of what's going to happen in terms of who gets the credit is going to hinge on these local taxes. If indeed local communities do raise taxes, I think that's going to really affect a lot of people because, you know, when your taxes go up, do you blame the governor, do you blame the mayor, who do you blame? And so I think that's going to be a big battle as we go down toward 2012, is who actually is going to get the credit? Ohio, fortunately, our economy is recovering, and so, you know, I think Governor Kasich is getting some credit for that, but certainly we've got a long way to go.

CONAN: And indeed, I should point out there will be an election in Ohio in 2011, in this year, but one without any candidates.

KASLER: Right. We've got two very interesting bills that are coming up on - or two pieces of ballot issues that are going to be coming up. We have a constitutional amendment - this one is being filed today - that would allow voters to decide to opt out of the federal health care legislation. So that's a Tea Party initiated vote. But then, we also have a possible repeal of a collective bargaining reform law, very similar to the one in Wisconsin, but in Ohio it's a little stricter because it includes not just teachers and other public workers but also police and firefighters. So that's a more progressive Democratic bill. So you've got two groups that will be converging at the polls this fall. It could be very interesting.

CONAN: Karen Kasler, thank you very much for your time today. Appreciate it.

KASLER: Thanks.

CONAN: Karen Kasler, bureau chief for the Statehouse News Bureau for Ohio Public Radio, and she joined us from Columbus. And, Ken, it's not just Ohio and, well, obviously, everybody has been focused on Wisconsin all along and St. Paul - they did get a budget in New Jersey and both sides emerged spitting venom at each other.

RUDIN: Well, I think Chris Christie, the very aggressive Republican governor there, and the state Senate president - the legislature in New Jersey is Democratic-controlled, and he called Governor Christie a rotten bastard. You know, I mean, the language has been really, really harsh. There's no love lost between the Democrats in the legislature and Governor Christie. And I think Governor Christie likes it that way. He likes to be, you know, in your face.

But there are a lot of states that even - I think 45 states have already passed their budgets. What's happening in Minnesota is pretty remarkable because Minnesota always had the reputation as a good government state and yet that's the one state that has the shutdown. Many other states are just accomplishing what they need to do.

CONAN: And California which had the state - the reputation of never passing a budget on time, finally did it this year, but a lot of smoke and mirrors in that one. Ken Rudin, thanks very much for your time today. We'll see you next Wednesday.

RUDIN: Thanks, Neal. Say hi to Thad McCotter.

CONAN: Political junkie Ken Rudin with us every Wednesday on TALK OF THE NATION. Coming up, in a Florida courtroom yesterday, Casey Anthony cleared of charges. She murdered her daughter. The court of public opinion looked a little differently. We'll talk about what the dramatic case taught us when we return. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.