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Published: Tuesday, 1/26/2010

Strickland's goal: Inspire Ohioans

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

COLUMBUS - In what may be the most important speech of his political career, Gov. Ted Strickland will strive today to inspire Ohioans in the face of rising unemployment and dismal economic news.

"I hope to be able to give the people of Ohio hope in my message," Mr. Strickland said Friday after hearing President Obama take a defiant stance while in Ohio in the face of recent political setbacks that will likely make passage of his own agenda more difficult.

The Democratic governor will deliver his fourth State of the State Address at noon today before a joint session of the General Assembly. He is expected to emphasize job creation.

"I'm energized, as I think the President is," Mr. Strickland said.

"What we are fighting for [are] issues that are worth the fight - health care for our people, employment opportunities, making sure our kids can get educated in a quality school and that college remains affordable, and we are investing in the parts of our economy that have capacity to create the jobs of the future.

"Those are important issues, and I'm ready to fight for them," Mr. Strickland said.

A Blade/Ohio Newspaper Poll released Sunday showed 50 percent of Ohio voters approve of Mr. Strickland's overall performance while 45 percent disapprove. When it comes to his handling of the economy, his approval rating drops to 42 percent with 54 percent disapproving.

If the election were held today, 51 percent said they would vote for former Republican congressman John Kasich with 45 percent supporting Mr. Strickland.

"This is a governor who said four years ago that he had a plan to turn around Ohio's economy," said Jason Mauk, executive director of the Ohio Republican Party. "Since that time, Ohio has lost more than 355,000 jobs and has reached double-digit unemployment.

"If he has a plan, it's not working," he said. "If he doesn't have a plan, this is his last opportunity to unveil one. I think Ohioans are waiting anxiously to hear something bold, something transformational. Frankly, I think they will be disappointed."

John Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron, said this speech could be the last time Mr. Strickland has the platform to himself before the election. He noted that he is not likely to be in a position to propose major new spending programs given the state's financial straits.

"But there can be a reorientation of policies and changes that don't involve a lot of money," he said. "He will probably talk about how his policies will work in the future if given a chance to operate. It is a challenge, but it is not impossible to make a case for his stewardship of state government."

In the past, Mr. Strickland has used his addresses to propose policy initiatives despite dwindling resources - a 2007 property tax break for seniors financed by selling off the state's tobacco settlement, a 2008 job-creation package largely fueled by borrowing, and a 2009 long-term overhaul of the state's K-12 education system, much of which came with an IOU attached.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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