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Published: Monday, 2/7/2011

Kasich to bring fiscal message to town

Talk expected to focus on plans to aid business climate

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

Gov. John Kasich has met with business groups in the state in recent weeks; he's to meet with the area chamber and Rotary today. Gov. John Kasich has met with business groups in the state in recent weeks; he's to meet with the area chamber and Rotary today.
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Gov. John Kasich has incorporated his "new day'' message on Ohio economic renewal into a sort of road show that is to roll into Toledo today.

The Republican governor has spoken in recent weeks with business groups in Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Dayton to reiterate his message that he believes government has been lethargic in reacting to, and anticipating, the needs of business, and that its tax system discourages investment here.

He is to speak at noon today during a joint session of the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce and the local Rotary Club at the Park Inn.

His speech comes at a time when Ohio's unemployment rate is 9.6 percent, dropping but still above the national average.

"Inherently, it's Ohio's business environment that we've got to fix,'' Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said. "We've got challenges ahead with the budget and everything, but ultimately it's the business environment that is most important here. ...

"It's a two-way street, looking for what the business community identifies as the barriers holding people back and keeping the economy in the gutter," he said. "We're also letting them know what some of the things are that we'll be tackling in coming months."

The Toledo event will coincide with the Rotary's regular luncheon meeting.

"When you're doing economic development, you want to get people into the state and hopefully we'll have something to offer," said Carol Van Sickle, the chamber's vice president for public affairs. "We want him to know that [northwest Ohio has] the workers and good educational institutions. We hope he'll speak to our region."

While in Cincinnati recently, Mr. Kasich talked about getting more international flights into Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

And in Cleveland, he talked about the possibility of entering into a long-term lease for a private operator of the Ohio Turnpike that would pay a lump sum to the state for the privilege. He has stressed, however, he would pursue the idea only if the numbers work.

Last week, the state House of Representatives passed a bill to start Mr. Kasich's plan to transfer the state's tax incentives and other economic development programs to a new private, nonprofit organization called JobsOhio. Despite Democratic claims the move would shift key decision-making behind closed doors, the Republican-controlled House forwarded the bill to the Senate.

A campaign-trail advocate for eliminating Ohio's income tax, Mr. Kasich has been quieter on that front since being elected, expressing pleasure instead that Ohio's top rate dropped below 6 percent with the automatic 4.2 percent across-the-board cut that took effect on Jan. 1.

Francine Lawrence, president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers and vice president of the American Federation of Teachers, is a Rotary member and said she'd want to be seated front and center for this speech if she didn't have a scheduling conflict.

She said she'd like to hear the governor talk about school funding, saying it's impossible to separate the issues of education and economic development.

"I'd like to hear how he plans to relieve the unfair reliance on property owners to fund public schools and how he would help to turn around urban schools who are facing enormous financial challenges,'' she said. "To varying degrees, large city school districts are experiencing significant financial challenges. Without something changing in terms of support from the state, we're looking at city schools collapsing. Toledo is right on the edge.''

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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