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Why Can’t Deep-Red Ohio Accomplish Anything For Conservatives?

With a supermajority Republican trifecta, it is stunning how little Ohio Republicans get done and how often they lose consequential battles.


For 15 years, Republicans have controlled Ohio’s legislature, with supermajorities in both the Ohio House and state Senate. For eight years, John Kasich served as governor, followed by “Gang of Fourteen” moderate Mike DeWine for the last five years. Of the 21 states with Republican trifectas, the Republicans’ rule over Ohio is the 11th strongest at 73.23 percent (measured by percentage of legislative control). As a point of comparison, the strength of the Republican trifectas in Florida and Texas are ranked 12th (70.0 percent) and 19th (59.31 percent), respectively.

Despite governing with smaller majorities, those other states accomplish far more than Ohio’s policymakers. If you didn’t know better, you’d swear Ohio is a deep-blue state like Illinois and New York, run by leftists instead of a +8 Donald Trump red state.

The most astonishing and depressing record of Ohio Republicans is the systemic weakness of Ohio’s private sector. From 1990 through January 2024, Ohio’s private sector has only grown by 17.5 percent, with the average among other pro-union states at 32 percent and right-to-work states at 72 percent. Other than in 2021, when some of the jobs temporarily lost from the pandemic came back, Ohio’s private sector job growth has not reached six figures since 1997. Even worse, Ohio’s private sector still has not returned to the peak of private-sector employment, 4.8 million jobs in March 2000 (yes, that was 24 years ago), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Because the DeWine-Jon Husted administration shut down Ohio so severely during the pandemic, Ohio’s private sector has only netted 33,600 jobs since 2019. Ohio’s private-sector recovery post-pandemic is America’s 38th best. This lackluster growth is despite the work of the “best in the nation” economic development entity, JobsOhio, which Kasich created in 2011 with little transparency on how it operates. The only measure of its success, therefore, is private-sector job growth, which has worsened the longer JobsOhio has been in business.

The jury remains out on whether Ohio’s now-delayed deal with Intel that cost more than $2 billion in state subsidies will pan out. Its other big projects have been spectacular failures. Its efforts to get a cracker plant in eastern Ohio went nowhere after “investing” more than $100 million in the project. Similarly, its large investment in a Peloton plant in western Ohio went belly up before a single bike was built.

As a point of comparison, Florida’s private sector has added 3.4 million jobs more than Ohio since 1990. In 1990, Ohio’s private sector was 91 percent the size of Florida’s private sector. Because of Ohio’s stagnant job growth and Florida’s booming economy, Ohio’s private sector is now just 55 percent the size of Florida’s private sector.

Blowing the Budget

On tax policy, Republicans have passed an $86 billion two-year budget that will see state spending jump by 10 percent, but have only nibbled on lowering the state income tax. From the 2013 state budget in which Ohio spent $27.9 billion to the 2025 state budget in which Ohio is budgeted to spend $44.7 billion, state spending will have skyrocketed by 60 percent in 12 years, or roughly 5 percent per year, at a time in which population growth and inflation were very low (except for inflation the last three years under President Joe Biden).

Medicaid now swallows 50 percent of state spending following Kasich’s unilateral expansion under Obamacare that has seen enrollment explode by nearly 800,000 Ohioans since 2013 (66 percent the size of Ohio’s private sector). Due to Medicaid expansion, Republicans are dependent on the state income tax to fund spending. To make matters worse, because Republicans have failed to wrestle with local government reform, local property taxes in Ohio have jumped by the sixth highest rate in America. Over the last year, property tax increases were larger than the minimal reductions in the state income tax.

Image CreditOpportunity Ohio

After a decade of tepid population growth of just 2 percent, Ohio is now losing citizens as tens of thousands are voting with their feet by heading to states with more opportunities and prosperity. Many Ohio counties have been hollowed out due to the lack of jobs. Ohioans who aren’t leaving Ohio or dying from fentanyl are moving from rural counties to the greater Cincinnati and Columbus area counties, where job prospects are slightly better.

Losing on Cultural Issues

Even on cultural issues, Republicans in Ohio have failed to stop the left from winning again and again. From the passage of gambling during the Kasich years (who then expanded it even more) to legalizing marijuana under the DeWine-Husted administration, Ohio is becoming America’s vice capital. JobsOhio’s subsidy largesse is funded by alcohol sales, so perversely the more Ohioans get drunk, the better.

Due to the lack of strategic leadership from the DeWine-Husted administration, one of the nation’s most extreme pro-abortion laws was embedded into the Ohio Constitution last year. Only after watching state after state pass laws to counter the radical transgender agenda did Republicans finally act to protect minors from being surgically butchered and drugged and to protect girls from competing against boys. This action had to overcome an astonishing veto by DeWine, with Husted only breaking his four-year silence on the issue less than 24 hours before DeWine issued his veto and after knowing DeWine’s veto would be overridden (no profile in courage there).

Whether you are a fiscal or social conservative, it is hard to find something happening in Ohio that leaves you encouraged. That is why I explored a run for Ohio governor in 2023 and put forth an aggressive bold colors agenda. My run didn’t succeed, but hopefully it will encourage an outsider like Vivek Ramaswamy who can self-finance a run to enter the race so Ohio doesn’t just mindlessly pass the baton to another feckless career politician like Husted. With so much political power that comes with a supermajority Republican trifecta, it is quite stunning how little Republicans get done and how often they lose the consequential battles in Ohio.

What’s the matter with Ohio? Pretty much everything, but the single biggest problem is it lacks real leaders. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott have shown what bold leadership looks like and, more importantly, how it can transform states into national leaders. Ohioans deserve better from their pale pastel political leaders. Without fundamental and dramatic policy changes driven from the top, Ohio will continue as a dead state walking.

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