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Kasich addresses audience at Lucas County Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner

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Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks at the Lucas County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner tonight at the Premier Banquet Hall in Toledo.

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Ohio Gov. John Kasich spoke to the Lucas County Republican Party's Lincoln Day Dinner tonight with a focus on a budget that he said is needed to maintain Ohio's momentum.

The Republican governor acknowledged that his plan to accept federal funds to extend Medicaid coverage to some 400,000 Ohioans whom he characterized as mostly the working poor was "controversial," and assured his audience he is no fan of Obamacare, the national health-care program pushed through by President Obama.

"But I'm the CEO of our state and I have have to make decisions and I have to be practical," Mr. Kasich said.

He defended his plan to bring a wide variety of services under the state's sales tax, which he plans to reduce by half a penny to 5 cents on the dollar.

The governor spoke to nearly 500 guests at the Lucas County Republican Party's Lincoln Day dinner in The Premier banquet hall on Heatherdowns Boulevard in South Toledo, and recalled his previous visit in 2009, when he was a candidate before the election in 2010.

"The last time I was here there was not this kind of momentum. There was a kind of a pall hanging over the place," the governor said. Tickets for the event, which raises money for the county GOP were $50 per person.

Among the attendees was Mayor Michael Bell, formerly a Democrat and now an independent, and a candidate for election to a second four-year term. Toledo Councilman Joe McNamara has announced to run against him.  

Mr. Bell said he is an independent because he thinks the answer is "somewhere in the middle." He said he attended a Democratic event on Saturday.

Mr. Kasich called him "my buddy" and extolled the mayor as someone who sticks up for the public good and puts himself on the line.

Mr. Bell said he supports the governor's budget plan.

"We have to come up with creative ways of doing things. We can't do it by raising taxes and so I think he's trying to be creative, I think he's thinking outside of the box. At this particular time in history that's sort of what you have to do," the mayor said.

The two of them met to have "general conversation - nothing too specific," Mr. Bell said.

"Typically when we go in and talk we just energize each other. I ask him how the state's going, he'll ask me how the city's going, and if there's issues he can help me with, and back at him," Mr. Bell said.

The speech covered many of the points he made in trying to sell his $63.3 billion budget plan to the Ohio General Assembly two nights earlier in the State of the State speech in Lima.

Lucas County Auditor Anita Lopez and Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz are expected to give a Democratic response Friday.

The Ohio Democratic Party described the proposed budget as "the Governor’s scheme to pass one of the largest middle-class tax increases in Ohio’s history in order to finance a handout for the super wealthy, all while failing to support schools and local governments."

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.

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