Ohio Gov. John Kasich gave his fourth annual State of the State Address from Medina Monday, the third State of the State he's delivered outside of the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus.
"The nation and the world have their eyes on Ohio. They see we're coming back and they want to know how we're doing it," Kasich said. "We're not done, but we've made good progress. We're getting there, and it's great to see it happen and to be a part of it."
The governor covered a variety of topics, from jobs and education to lowering taxes, and close to the end presented his annual courage awards to Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus, who survived a decade-long imprisonment in the Cleveland house of their kidnapper.
The Associated Press
Ohio Gov. John Kasich delivers his State of the State address at the Performing Arts Center, Monday in Medina.
"I was touched by his recognition of the courage of those three women," said Ohio Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville.
But he noted that in other portions of the speech Kasich missed opportunities to address some issues impacting Southeast Ohio.
"There was no mention of manufacturing, most notably the situation faced by workers from the Ormet facility," Gentile said. "I think the governor could exercise some of his leadership to support those workers, and PUCO (Public Utilities Commission of Ohio) could follow suit."
Governor uses speech to propose tax cuts
By Ann Sanner
AP Statehouse Correspondent
MEDINA - Ohio Gov. John Kasich used his annual State of the State speech Monday to pledge a new round of tax cuts, propose using casino money for a plan to boost ties between communities and schools and said state higher education funding will be tied to course completion and graduation.
Kasich also pushed the importance of vocational training as an alternative route for some students, proposed giving veterans free academic credits for training and experience they received in the military, and promised a new fight against smoking in the state.
In a dramatic moment, Kasich presented his annual courage awards to three women who survived a decade-long captivity in Cleveland after they were rescued in May when one of the women pushed her way through a door to freedom.
The governor also used the 64-minute speech to indirectly ask Ohio voters to support him over likely Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald in November.
Citing a spiritual mission to "bring about a healing" before he dies, he said being governor to all Ohioans is his life and mission. He likened his first term to a hike up a mountain.
"After you've struggled through the early obstacles you get out on more solid ground, and when you get out on that more
solid ground you get the first glimpse of your goal - the summit - and you come together and it lifts your spirits, and you get that extra boost to keep going," he said.
Kasich's tax plan would push Ohio's inome-tax rate from 5.33 percent to below 5 percent for individuals and small businesses.
"When Ohioans have more money in their pockets, we're being true to the fundamental idea that made our nation great," he said to applause. "Government works for the people, not the other way around."
Education was a key theme of the address, which took place at the Performing Arts Center in Medina. This marks the third consecutive year Kasich has taken the speech outside the Statehouse in Columbus.
Kasich proposed directing $10 million in casino revenue to get communities more involved with schools and parents more involved in their children's education, and said he wants to make it easier for returning veterans to get civilian jobs.
"If you can drive a truck from Kabul to Kandahar in Afghanistan, don't you think you should be able to drive a truck from Columbus to Cleveland?" he said.
Kasich will introduce a midterm budget bill soon that could be the vehicle for the policy priorities of the fourth and final year of his term.
"Our great purpose will continue to be helping every Ohioan have a chance to find a job that lets them fulfill their purpose," he said.
House Education Chairman Gerald Stebelton said he liked the governor's education proposals but said they'll need careful review.
He said some proposals should be dealt with separately from a midterm budget bill. "If each idea has merit, it will stand on its own merit," he said.
Stebelton, a Lancaster Republican, said tying higher education funding to graduation rates also raises concerns.
"The devil is in the details because universities are not in total control of what happens to their students on the paths to graduation," he said.
He said family emergency, accidents and other events can take students out of the school cycle. "In concept, I like the idea," he said.
FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive, questioned Kasich's budget priorities. He said Kasich was "counting on Ohioans to forget that he balanced those budgets by shifting the financial burden to the middle class and already-suffering communities."
Minority Democrats said the governor's actions do not match his words. They said while Kasich claimed to not raise taxes, many Ohioans are feeling the bump in the state sales tax and the removal of the homestead exemption and property tax rollbacks.
Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni said Kasich's plan to cut the income tax rate wouldn't pad the wallets of many in the middle class.
"It's not going to change the way that they act," said Schiavoni, a Boardman Democrat. "It's not going to change the way that they spend. It's not going to change anything about the way that they conduct their life."
Republican legislative leaders pledged to review details of Kasich's plans. They couldn't say whether session schedules would need to be extended or changed.
"If you know anything about John Kasich, you know one thing: He's not willing to sit back and rest," Senate President Keith Faber said. He said the governor had given them plenty to work on through this year.
Several dozen protesters gathered outside before the speech to protest Kasich policies.
"Everything that he has done so far has been against the working class people of this state," said Jamie Fant, of Dayton, a retired corrections officer.
The Ormet plant in Hannibal closed last fall, citing the inability to negotiate a lower electricity rate from American Electric Power of Ohio. Approximately 900 workers in both Ohio and West Virginia were affected by the closing.
Gentile said he had hoped Kasich would also talk about sharing a proposed severance tax on oil and gas shale drilling operations with the communities in which those operations are located.
In addition, Gentile noted the idea touted by the governor of granting veterans college credits for skills they've learned while in the military has actually been a bipartisan effort and Gentile has introduced similar legislation in the Senate.
Ohio Rep. Andy Thompson, R-Marietta, was also a bit surprised that Kasich did not mention the severance tax nor the positive impact the energy industry is having on his district.
"And I'm concerned that there wasn't more said about Obamacare and the expansion of Medicaid," Thompson added. "But he did talk about self-reliance and not relying on government, and he mentioned the JobsOhio program that has created some job opportunities."
He said the governor also spoke of the importance of his faith and expressed concern for people who are in need and helping those with mental health and addiction issues that bar them from economic opportunities.
"I do appreciate that he wants to look out for people in our state who are not doing so well," Thompson said. "I think government needs to be kept at a reasonable and moderate level, and I think financially this administration is doing a good job."
Fellow Ohio Rep. Debbie Phillips, D-Albany, said she expected a lot more from Kasich's speech, and noted a lot of what the governor put forth as newer ideas in the State of the State Address were initiatives on which the legislature has already been working.
"And there's a huge disconnect in what he sees as the effective policies of this administration," she said. "Ohio is 47th in the U.S. in terms of job creation, which indicates his job creation policies are not working."
Phillips said the governor took office after the national economic downturn in 2008, but Ohio has not been doing as well as other states since then.
"We've actually gone backwards since he took office while there's been economic recovery in most other states," she said.
But Washington County Republican Party Chairwoman Leslie Haas noted Ohio was $8 billion in debt when Kasich took office.
"Now we have a $1.5 billion surplus, and the state's credit standing has improved," she said. "That's because of tax cuts, budget cuts, and some very smart decisions. This administration has also created 170,000 new jobs. These are people who are working and not relying on government subsidies."
Haas said Kasich had a lot to say about education in Monday's speech.
"He wants to get back to courses that offer alternatives to a four-year college education, like training for service trades," she said. "I think the governor wants to bring back courses that relate students directly to real world jobs and careers."
As for business, Haas said Kasich also talked about getting government regulation out of the way for those who are starting businesses, including minority businesses.
"By and large I think he's done a great job in his first term," Haas said. "We don't feel so hopeless anymore in this state. We have a direction, and I'm pleased with where we're going so far."
Molly Varner, chairwoman of the Washington County Democratic Party, felt Kasich's State of the State Address was more of a campaign speech.
"I thought for a State of the State address it was pretty predictable for a governor who's up for election," she said. "He talked about all the wonderful things his administration has done-there seemed to be a lot of 'mom and apple pie' talk."
Varner said Kasich talked about Ohio being open for business.
"But in the last year or two of (former governor) Ted Strickland's administration, there were several major business magazines talking about what great shape Ohio was in for business development," she said. "The state was coming back then, but since Kasich took office we haven't seen that much change."
Varner said she was very glad to hear the governor say returning veterans should be given academic credit for skills they learned in the armed forces.
"He also talks about government power coming from the people, which is a lovely thing to say, but his administration has supported legislation that will curb some voting rights," she said. "That's not power from people, that's just voter suppression."