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Published: Saturday, 2/22/2014 - Updated: 8 months ago

Kasich to deliver familiar messages in State of State

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF
Kasich Kasich
ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge

COLUMBUS — Democrats offered this piece of advice for Gov. John Kasich when he delivers his fourth State of the State address on Monday night: Undo a lot of what you’ve already done.

Needless to say, that suggestion is a nonstarter for the Republican governor as he takes to the stage of the Medina High School auditorium to deliver a speech that will serve as the unofficial launch of his bid for re-election on Nov. 4.

In addition to highlighting what he considers to be the accomplishments of his administration to date, comparing the state of 2014 to the one he inherited in 2011, he will map the course he wants to take the state this year.

“He will be talking about the same things he’s talked about for the past four years,” said Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols. “It all centers around job creation — K-12 education, higher education, work-force development, and lowering taxes. That’s been our message from day one and will continue to be our message, making Ohio more jobs-friendly.”

The speech will be followed in ensuing days with the introduction of “mid-biennium review” bills in the General Assembly, major new policy initiatives at the halfway point of the state’s two-year budgets.

For the third consecutive year, Mr. Kasich will take his annual speech to the legislature on the road, this time to the northeast Ohio hometown of outgoing House Speaker Bill Batchelder. The auditorium will substitute for the chamber of the Ohio House of Representatives for the 7 p.m. televised speech.

Sites and businesses in Medina, Wooster, and nearby communities will host tours and a House committee hearing with focuses on such subjects as job training, business development, agriculture, taxes, tourism, and drug addiction, some of which will dovetail with elements of the governor’s speech.

The change of venue also will mean new sets of protests objecting to tax and budget policies that opponents say benefit the wealthy over the middle class, laws they say make it tougher for women to access abortion services, and hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” regulations they argue put communities at risk.

“There’s a certain version of reality that the governor’s going to give,” said Ed FitzGerald, Cuyahoga County executive and the Ohio Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate to take on Mr. Kasich this fall.

“I think he has that view because he’s not in touch with the actual reality that most people in Ohio are dealing with,” he said. “That’s why he feels comfortable using the language that he has that the economy in Ohio is a miracle.”

Long a proponent of reducing, if not outright eliminating, the state income tax, the governor is expected to renew his call for passage of a higher severance tax on a burgeoning shale oil and natural gas drilling industry to partially, if not entirely, underwrite another income tax cut for all Ohioans.

Republican lawmakers have been working toward a possible compromise after balking at his prior attempts. Mr. Kasich has said the House GOP proposal doesn’t go far enough while Mr. Batchelder has worried it may go too far. Democrats want an even higher tax than Mr. Kasich will contemplate.

The governor will renew his focus on job training and has hinted in prior speeches that he will push for broader vocational education for public school students earlier in their education careers in an attempt to reduce dropout rates and deliver a qualified work force to industry.

Leading up to and since his decision to buck his party and expand Medicaid under the federal health-care law, he has talked about pursuing more treatment in response to the state’s growing drug epidemic.

He has focused to a large extent on the state’s heroin problem, fed in part by his administration’s efforts to shut down the rampant prescription of opiate painkillers.

Democrats, however, argue that Mr. Kasich has to put more money behind such efforts, pointing again to cuts dealt to the local governments on the front lines of such problems in his first budget in 2011.

“Words are great,” Sen. Charleta Tavares (D., Columbus) said. “Platitudes are great about poverty, about caring for the least of these amongst God’s children. However, actions speak much louder than words."

“We’ve got to do more than talk about poverty,” she said. “We’ve got to do more than talk about the drug epidemic. We’ve got to put money where the money is needed, so that people can get healthy, go back to work, go back to school.”

According to a Quinnipiac Poll released earlier this week, 51 percent of voters approve of Mr. Kasich’s job performance compared to 36 percent who don’t.

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



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