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Kasich says he’ll refund gas taxes, fix roads

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    Ohio Gov. John Kasich, left, answers a question for Dale Montri, right, of Ida, Michigan, during a town hall meeting at Monroe County Community College on March 7, 2016.

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    Ohio Gov. John Kasich delivers his vision for the country during a town hall meeting at Monroe County Community College. He talked about the high cost of college education, government efficiency, and privatization, among other topics.

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    Former Toledo Mayor Donna Owens, Steve DeBolt, center, and former mayor Mike Bell converse before Gov. John Kasich takes the stage in Monroe.

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Ohio Gov. John Kasich delivers his vision for the country during a town hall meeting at Monroe County Community College. He talked about the high cost of college education, government efficiency, and privatization, among other topics.

THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
Enlarge | Buy This Image

MONROE, Mich. — Ohio Gov. John Kasich talked about the cost of college education, his strategy to improve the economy, and the battle to keep the Republican presidential nomination away from Donald Trump during a town hall-style campaign stop at Monroe County Community College Monday.

The Ohio governor, who is looking for wins Tuesday in Michigan and next week in Ohio, also touched on government efficiency, better education, and privatization. He also hit a home run with the Michigan crowd by promising better roads for the state.

“By the way, nice roads,” he quipped. Mr. Kasich then suggested states keep all gasoline taxes rather than sending the federal share to Washington and waiting for a smaller amount back via a rebate.

IN PICTURES: Kasich holds town hall in Monroe

Mr. Kasich, one of four remaining GOP candidates in the race, fielded questions from the crowd. He also addressed immigration first by joking he’d gotten calls to build a fence between Ohio and Michigan.

“There always was a push to put a fence up between Ohio and Michigan and some people think I should rescue the Ohio-speaking people,” he joked.

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Ohio Gov. John Kasich, left, answers a question for Dale Montri, right, of Ida, Michigan, during a town hall meeting at Monroe County Community College on March 7, 2016.

THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
Enlarge | Buy This Image

Turning back to the serious, Mr. Kasich said he would not seek to deport people living in the United States illegally, something Republican front-runner Mr. Trump said he wants to do. But Mr. Kasich said he would not allow people to become citizens if they entered the country illegally.

“A country has to lock its doors; we have to know who is coming in,” Mr. Kasich said.

The governor said the country should “finish the border” and he supports a “guest worker program” that would require people to return home.

“We are not going to go around picking people out of their homes,” Mr. Kasich said. “I mean, what are you kidding me?”

Mr. Kasich talked repeatedly about his political experience, which includes 18 years in Congress, and his record of balancing budgets on the state and federal level.

He told the crowd that his experience balancing the budget while in Congress will help him improve the economy, lower taxes, create jobs, and address the issue of the high cost of higher education.

He also explained his strategy for dealing with Mr. Trump.

“Personal attacks against Donald Trump is not how you win votes,” Mr. Kasich said.

The governor took a shot at Texas Sen. Ted Cruz by asking for a show of hands from those who believed the country would have no IRS and a 10-percent flat income tax. No one raised a hand.

The cost of higher education was a recurring question during the town hall-style meeting. The governor — calling for students of the community college to raise their hands — only saw five or six outstretched arms.

Mr. Kasich talked about the affordability of the community college — just $3,000 a year. Compared to a school that costs $40,000 annually, that would be an immense savings, he said.

Mr. Kasich went to Ohio State University, where the tuition is now more than $10,000 a year for Ohio students and more that $27,300 for out-of-state students.

Bob Goble of Saline, Mich., who works at General Motors’ Toledo Transmission plant, asked the governor about placing signs on state highways with the veteran crisis assistance number.

“Twenty-two veterans a day commit suicide nationally, and we have let it go unattended,” Mr. Goble said, referring to a 2013 Department of Veterans Affairs study that determined that grim statistic.

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Former Toledo Mayor Donna Owens, Steve DeBolt, center, and former mayor Mike Bell converse before Gov. John Kasich takes the stage in Monroe.

THE BLADE/AMY E. VOIGT
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Mr. Kasich called Mr. Goble to the front of the room holding 400 people. The governor acknowledged he was rambling before declaring “done,” and directed Mr. Goble to speak with Ohio Senate President Keith Faber (R., Celina) about the signage.

Mr. Kasich’s Michigan visit came one day after he became the first presidential candidate to visit Toledo during the 2016 campaign.

The Republican governor has vowed to drop out of the race if he does not win the March 15 Ohio primary, which awards 66 delegates.

Former Toledo Mayor Mike Bell, a former political independent who turned Republican now running for Lucas County commissioner, attended the event to support his former political ally.

Mr. Bell said Mr. Kasich’s campaign has offered solid ideas while Mr. Trump’s has not.

“There's a lot of crazy talk — little hands and all that,” Mr. Bell said referring to barbs hurled between Mr. Trump and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio. “[Mr. Trump] is a lot of show. All the campaigns are a lot of show. ... At some point in time you have to actually tell them what you're going to do and how you're going to do it.”

Former Republican Toledo Mayor Donna Owens was also present.

Contact Ignazio Messina at: imessina@theblade.com or 419-724-6171 or on Twitter @IgnazioMessina.

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