COLUMBUS — Republican Gov. John Kasich restored Ohio’s membership in the National Governors Association as he seeks to shore up credibility for bipartisan deal-making that could bolster a 2020 bid for president.
An invoice produced in response to a public records request shows Ohio rejoined the bipartisan policy group in January for the first time in eight years. Kasich withdrew Ohio from the group in 2011, citing budget concerns.
The $88,000 membership renewal came after The Associated Press first sought records on Ohio’s membership status in the group. The AP’s request was made on Nov. 15 and the dues were paid Dec. 22.
It also coincided with efforts by a bipartisan group of governors to propose compromises on a series of divisive policy issues, including health care, immigration and guns. Kasich, a 2016 presidential candidate considered to be contemplating a run against Republican President Donald Trump, has been a leading voice, along with Democratic Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, in those efforts.
Kasich is returning to New Hampshire for the first time in nearly a year to hold a "fireside chat" at New England College on Tuesday night. He finished a distant second behind Donald Trump in the state’s 2016 first-in-the-nation presidential primary.
Kasich’s decision to leave the National Governors Association in 2011 came amid a partisan wave.
Ohio was among several GOP-led states, including Texas, South Carolina and Idaho, that declined to pay dues in the organization that ranged on a sliding scale from about $20,000 to about $175,000 a year.
The Republicans cited the down economy and said skipping the dues payments was a way to balance budgets and cut government costs.
Kasich’s Democratic predecessor, Gov. Ted Strickland, had allowed two years of NGA dues payments to lapse amid a national recession. Both Strickland and Republican Gov. Bob Taft before him had maintained the state’s membership by negotiating with the association to reduce or suspend dues payments as a result of the state’s tight budget climate.
Kasich spokesman Jon Keeling said the governor’s relationship with the association’s chairman is an important factor in the decision to renew now.
"The governor has a strong working relationship and friendship with current NGA Chairman and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval," he said, noting that Sandoval has been part of a group of governors working to solve "critical issues facing our states and our nation."
In 2011, Kasich’s spokesman said the state might rejoin the group later after a nearly $8 billion budget gap had been addressed. It comes as Kasich, who is term-limited, prepares to leave office in January.