COLUMBUS - Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich on Wednesday criticized Ohio's regulatory environment as a bureaucratic impediment to job creation.
With a "Tower of Babel" of regulations stacked next to him, the former congressman said Ohio's regulations should be no stricter than federal rules for fear businesses will look to friendlier states when it comes to creating jobs.
"We know the federal regs are very stringent," Mr. Kasich said. "Sometimes they lack common sense. But for Ohio to have tougher rules and laws … makes no sense at all. Absolutely, our rules ought to be more flexible and more manageable than what they send us out of Washington."
Mr. Kasich, a former Fox News political pundit and regional manager for failed Wall Street giant Lehman Brothers, said he would put his lieutenant governor, current State Auditor Mary Taylor, in charge of modernizing and streamlining Ohio's regulatory and permitting processes.
Mr. Kasich, locked in a tight race with Gov. Ted Strickland, pointed to Continental Structural Plastics in North Baltimore to make the point that Ohio environmental regulation has gone too far. The auto parts manufacturer from Troy, Mich., recently announced that it will close its plant that employs 214 people and reopen an old northeastern Indiana plant that will employ 350 by 2012.
Continental had sought approval from the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to let it stop using an incinerator that reduces emissions, equipment the company said was no longer needed but cost $500,000 a year to operate. The company had also tried to secure union concessions.
"Instead of the [Ohio Environmental Protection Agency] going up there and working hand in glove and helping them to comply, they created a problem," Mr. Kasich said. "The company is gone.''
Strickland spokesman Amanda Wurst, however, said the governor spoke with Continental's chief executive officer last week and was assured the company's decision was not based on an Ohio regulatory issue.
Continental declined to comment yesterday.
In a statement, Mr. Strickland said Mr. Kasich's proposals would duplicate work, saying his administration has eliminated or amended more than 2,000 rules related to business.
"This isn't Wall Street," he said. "This is Ohio, and in Ohio it's not about what you say, it's about what you do. As governor, I have already done what Congressman Kasich only talks about. In the face of the worst recession since the Great Depression, I recognized the need to make Ohio more business-friendly, which is why I was the first governor in Ohio history to undertake comprehensive regulatory reform."
Ms. Taylor said she would oversee a process that would require proposed regulations to come with a cost analysis and divert fines collected by regulatory agencies to the general budget so there would be no incentive for a fine-dependent agency to issue penalties.
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