Updated Thu, Jul 24, 2014 4:55 pm
Many economic indicators show Ohio’s economy has recovered significantly since the nation’s recession in 2008 and 2009. One controversial measure passed by congress gave states billions of dollars to prop up their economies. Ohio got about $10 billion from the federal government during that period.
As many states were decimating the jobs of state employees, shelving big projects or refusing to accept the money all together, then-Gov. Ted Strickland went a different direction. He used almost all of those federal stimulus funds to keep public employees in their jobs and keep public projects on schedule.
Strickland explained he has no regrets about doing that.
“What I tried to do as governor is to prevent Ohio from slipping even deeper in a recession," Strickland said. "We were the only state in America that froze college tuition for two years. College tuition is now going up, unfortunately. We were able to continue to provide essential services to our people and we were able to invest in some major infrastructure needs. The Nelsonville Bypass exists today because we were able to use stimulus dollars to expedite that. That major bridge in Cleveland is being built because of federal stimulus dollars.
"And other major investments were made in renewable energy – solar and wind power. So all of those, I think they were building blocks that made Ohio’s recovery more likely to occur more rapidly. And I don’t think it’s unfair for me to say that I gave Governor Kasich an economy that was in recovery and during the last year of my tenure as governor, we were seeing some significant job growth and unemployment was down. We were able to continue to keep Ohio on a fairly steady course and make it ready to experience a recovery when that recovery came."
Ingles: Do you think that we would be seeing signs of economic recovery now if you had used those federal dollars differently back then?
"Well you know I was criticized by some in the media for using the stimulus resources," Strickland said. "I’m not sure what they expected me to do – just not accept them and go without? They were resources that were made available to Ohio and other states for the purpose of trying to keep the economy in a more steady path during a great, great recession. And so I have no doubt that, if it had not been for the use of those dollars – and I think the wise use of those dollars- Ohio would have gone deeper into the recession which would have made it more difficult for us to try to climb our way out.
"So you know, I think Governor Kasich has benefited from some of the decisions I made. There’s no doubt about that. But when I left office, Ohio was recovering at a much higher rate than most other states and I am proud of that fact."
Ingles: Is it recovering now at the level that it was when you left office?
"Well I think it’s a mixed bag," Strickland said. "Some people in Ohio are doing very well. If you are a wealthy person in Ohio today, you are doing very well. But if you are an average working person, you are not seeing the benefits of an economy recovery. But that’s happening across the country.
"Wealthy people are getting wealthier and working people are struggling to keep their noses just above the water line."
The unemployment rate in Ohio is down. In 2013, fewer Ohioans filed unemployment claims than any year since the turn of the century. Kasich said that, after losing 350,000 jobs between January 2007 and January 2011, Ohio has added more than 250,000 private sector jobs, making the state fifth in the nation in private sector job creation. But a recent Baldwin Wallace University study showed Ohio has yet to regain 120,000 jobs it lost since December 2007. And the study shows during the past year and a half, Ohio’s job growth rate is less than half of the nation’s growth rate.