With his own toes just out of reach, Kasich resigned himself to cheering on the children before continuing his tour of the YMCA Early Learning Center, 2879 Johnstown Rd., in Columbus.
Kasich's visit was used to highlight the provisions in his two-year, $55.5 billion budget proposal that would allow all children now enrolled in state-subsidized child-care programs to remain despite a 7 percent reduction in funds for child-care providers.
Ben Johnson, spokesman for the Department of Job and Family Services, said Kasich's budget calls for a reduction in the income-eligibility threshold for state-sponsored child care of families that make up to 150 percent of the federal poverty level ($27,795 for a family of three) to 125 percent ($23,163). It also would trim state spending on child care from $134.2 million this year to $123.5 million in 2012.
But Johnson also said that the maximum income for enrolled families to stay in the program remains at 200 percent of the poverty line ($37,060) and that all families benefiting from a state subsidy will be grandfathered in.
"We decided early on that child care was critical," Kasich said. "It's critical for moms and dads; it's critical for moms who have dads that ran out on them. And they've got children, and we want the moms to be able to work."
Kasich, Johnson and Job and Family Services Director Michael Colbert all indicated that child care was largely protected in a budget that was constructed to address an $8 billion shortfall. But cuts to provider reimbursements still could affect the children and families who count on state-funded care.
Linda Day-Mackessy, vice president of the YMCA of Central Ohio, said providers suffered a 15 percent cut in the current biennium. She said additional cuts could result in layoffs at child-care centers, changes in food-purchasing practices and possibly closings of facilities.
"That the governor made the decision not to kick out any families currently enrolled is a huge thing for families and providers," Day-Mackessy said. "We need to work with (Job and Family Services) to try to make the cuts the least painful for our families and the providers.
"As a nonprofit, we receive some funding from the United Way and other sources, so the cut might not affect us as much. For the for-profit providers who don't get that additional funding, it could be a real challenge."
Johnson said about 104,000 children receive state-sponsored care. That is expected to drop to 103,000 next year if the budget is enacted.
He said more than 4,000 state-licensed child-care providers and an additional 8,000 home-based providers are caring for children covered by the state.
Kasich and Colbert indicated that some of the proposed changes in child care were meant to prevent providers from sharing children to receive reimbursements.
Colbert said he will introduce a rule in May independent of Kasich's budget that would limit to two the number of providers that can be reimbursed for the same child.