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Published: Tuesday, 1/26/2010

Combative Strickland vows in state address he will fight for Ohio

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - Jobs, jobs, and more jobs.

Directly getting to the issue most on the minds of Ohioans, a combative Gov. Ted Strickland used his fourth State of the State Address Tuesday to say he will "fight" for Ohio, and that policies during bad times will improve the state's competitive position when a national economic recovery finally takes hold.

"I can't say it will be today," he said. "I can't say it will be easy, but we are going to fix this thing. I promise you I will move heaven and earth to create jobs in Ohio, and I will not rest until it's done because the state of our state is unyielding."

He openly invited the biofuels industry to found a refinery in the state, praised the growth of the solar industry in the Toledo area as part of the state's economic future, proposed new efforts to free up capital for entrepreneurship, and announced that Ohio on Tuesday had received a national reward for making the most innovative changes in its K-12 educational system.

"I believe in Ohio because we may have been dealt a tough hand, but we are going to do what Ohioans have always done. We'll play it to win," the Democratic governor said. "We've had to make tough decisions. We've had to make sacrifices, but we have worked to reduce the blow of this international economic meltdown. And the decisions we have made have positioned Ohio to not only recover but emerge rebuilt and renewed."

Shackled by a poor economy and dwindling resources, much of what Mr. Strickland proposed counts on a reworking of existing programs and federal stimulus dollars.

At times, Mr. Strickland came across as combative, vowing to "fight" for Ohio, a similar message that was delivered by President Obama in a visit to Ohio Friday.

The speech came at a crucial time for the governor. A Blade/Ohio Newspaper Poll released Sunday showed that while 50 percent of Ohio voters approve of his overall performance, 51 percent said they planned to vote for his Republican opponent, John Kasich, this fall.

Mr. Strickland never mentioned Mr. Kasich by name, but he said Ohio's future depends on pragmatic and "common-sense" solutions, not unrealistic, idealistic proposals. It was a thinly veiled reference to Mr. Kasich's proposal to gradually eliminate the state's income tax, which represents about 40 percent of the state's budget.

Republicans liked some of what they heard from the governor—the proposals that they said were actually Republican ideas. They pointed to the Third Frontier program and tax reforms, both of which were started under Mr. Strickland's GOP predecessor, Bob Taft.

Rep. John Adams (R., Sidney), who has introduced a bill to implement a variations of Mr. Kasich's income-tax repeal, said he found the governor's speech “disingenuous.''

“It angers me that now he wants to talk about jobs because it's an election year,'' he said.

"I believe in Ohio because we have always been a state that invents things, designs things, makes things, grows things," Mr. Strickland said. "And the world knows this. In fact, we are the only state in the nation where exports have grown every year since 1998.

"I believe in Ohio because I have never met an Ohioan who thinks we should put in a call to China and ask them if they want more American jobs," he said. "Because we know there is no product that wouldn't benefit from having "Made in Ohio" stamped on it."

The speech was moved up a day so it wouldn't have to compete for attention with President Obama's State of the Union Address on Wednesday.

Mr. Strickland endorsed renewal of the state's Third Frontier program that focuses investment on high-tech and biomedical research and development.

The Democratic-controlled House has passed a measure that would put a $950 million, five-year borrowing package on the May ballot. The Republican-controlled Senate Tuesday passed a $600 million, four-year package that would also include additional investment in local road, bridge, sewer, and other public works projects.

He specifically cited Toledo's glass industry as being part of the state's economic and entrepreneurial past and its future with the rise of solar-panel manufacturing and research in northwest Ohio.

"Yes, we have been knocked down," Mr. Strickland said. "There's no doubt about that. But as the legendary football coach Vince Lombardi used to say, 'It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get back up.'

"And Ohio will rise again, because there isn't a single thing wrong with Ohio that can't be fixed by what's right with Ohio."



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