COLUMBUS -- Gov. John Kasich will again take his annual State of the State address to lawmakers on the road, this time heading west to Lima, Ohio.
Last year, the Republican governor became the first not to deliver his assessment of the state’s situation to a joint session of the House and Senate at the Statehouse. He took his address instead to a high-performing school in the struggling former steel city of Steubenville on the Ohio River about 150 miles to the east. The Democratic territory is not far from where he grew up near Pittsburgh.
Now he’ll head nearly 100 miles to the Allen County. The region is Republican-friendly territory, represented by the new president of the Ohio Senate, Keith Faber, and the number-two Republican in the House, Rep. Matt Huffman.
President Barack Obama may have captured battleground Ohiolast November, but he garnered less than 18,000 Allen Countyvotes compared to nearly 30,000 for Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Allen County’s unemployment rate has dropped from 10.8 percent to 6.7 percent, matching the state’s rate in December.
The governor’s speech will cap a flurry of activity over the next few weeks. Next week, he and U.S. Sen. Rob Portman (R., Ohio) will speak at the World Economic Forum inSwitzerland. Soon after, he will unveil his proposal to revamp how Ohio funds K-12 schools, and he will follow that on Feb. 4 with this second two-year budget proposal to lawmakers.
The State of the State speech on Feb. 19 at Lima’s Veterans Memorial Civic and Convention Center will give him a chance to sell that plan to the General Assembly as well as to members of the public who tune in. In addition to the school funding plan, his budget proposals are expected to include an overhaul of the state’s tax system with a focus on reducing the personal income tax and a transportation budget that includes borrowing against the Ohio Turnpike to finance road projects across the state.
Although his 2012 speech was light on new proposals, the Steubenville location gave the Republican governor a chance to point to a top-ranked local school in terms of test scores, a school that defied the narrative that poor urban schools tend to struggle.
Steubenville was also in the heart of an eastern Ohio region experiencing a new era of oil and natural gas exploration using hydraulic fracturing.
Moving the location of the State of the State address will require approval of both chambers of the General Assembly. There was resistance to breaking with tradition last year, and in the end the approval to move the speech barely passed the House.
Republicans now have an even stronger hold on the General Assembly, so approval is expected.
“The moving of this address significantly destroys a historical tradition of Ohio and needs to be stopped before another tradition is lost,” Rep. Ron Gerberry, a Youngstown area Democrat who wrote a letter to House Speaker Bill Batchelder (R., Medina) urging rejection of the idea.
“As long serving members it is our responsibility to educate newer members in Ohio legislative history and tradition so future generations will enjoy them as we have,” he wrote.