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Ohio Gov. Kasich to focus on Ohio's future in speech

by MARC KOVAC | Gatehouse Statehouse Bureau Published: April 4, 2017 9:55 AM
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COLUMBUS -- Gov. John Kasich heads north to Sandusky today to deliver his seventh State of the State address before a joint, on-the-road session of the Ohio House and Senate.

He was still tweaking the speech late last week -- "It'll be a little bit about where we've been, where we are and what we need to do in the future," he told reporters Friday.

But the governor has offered plenty of hints about what's on his mind lately and what he'll likely have to say tonight.

Here are five things you'll probably hear during this year's State of the State:

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1. The Basics: It wouldn't be a State of the State if the governor didn't offer a summary of his work in office to date, including a snapshot of how things were before his election and some statistics on where things stand now.

That means you'll probably hear about the hundreds of thousands of jobs lost under his predecessors, about the nearly depleted rainy day fund and about the uncertainty that was driving businesses to look for digs outside of Ohio's borders.

And now? There's $2 billion-plus in the rainy day fund, businesses like Amazon and Google are building in Ohio and, "We're up 460,000 jobs," Kasich said. "We want to keep growing."

That said, the governor offers his annual speech this year with more uncertainty in the state economy, with revenues lower than earlier projections and tighter belts expected heading into a new biennium.

The governor likely will reiterate the administration's desire to maintain responsible spending, holding onto the contents of the rainy day fund instead of earmarking them upfront for programs in 2018 and '19.

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"We have tough fiscal times, but we have to deal with it," Kasich said. "We'll come through it. We'll be stronger."

2. The Reform: In the past, State of the State speeches during budget years have served as a platform for governors to solidify support of their new policy proposals.

Kasich pushed the annual address back to April last year, during his presidential run. This year's speech is also is later than usual for State of the States.

The Ohio House has been holding hearings for weeks on Kasich's executive budget; the Ohio Senate launched its own hearing on the legislation last month.

And Republican legislative leaders have already made it clear that they don't support some of what the governor has proposed -- an increase in taxes on oil and gas produced via fracking is at the top of that list.

Still, expect Kasich to make a case for why the legislature should adopt his approaches to tax reform, school funding and others issues. He'll likely stump for education reform, namely moves to increasingly expose primary and secondary students and teachers to information about Ohio's work force needs.

"What's most important is that we prepare for the future," Kasich said. "Just sitting on your laurels in a time of a digital revolution is not acceptable. We have to transform all of our institutions to prepare people for the jobs that are going to come, because there's going to be a lot of jobs displaced. It takes a whole lot of effort to change all the way in which we educate people."

Kasich also will talk about the state's ongoing drug epidemic. He told an audience of faith leaders last week that he would announce a new drug-related initiative during his State of the State.

3. The Lake: The governor most certainly will talk about Lake Erie, likely mentioning the efforts under his administration to combat harmful algal blooms and protect water quality.

He could announce new efforts on those issues and others to further spotlight Ohio's northern border.

" When I look at the shoreline of the lake, why have we not done the economic development, why don't we have a master plan?" Kasich asked during an Associated Press forum earlier this year. "That's something that needs to be thought about."

He added at that same event, "Look, the lake is, like, fantastic. And I don't think we take enough advantage of the lake. I don't think people know enough The lake is a jewel. It's so fantastic, and the communities are great I like the idea of being up at the lake."

4. The Book: Kasich's new book, "Two Paths: America Divided or United," will be released later this month, making its contents a potential topic of discussion during his State of the State speech.

The book will include Kasich's thoughts on the 2016 presidential race and his decades-long political career. He has mentioned the book in several public forums, saying it will address the political climate in the country and the increasing polarization of political views.

"What we've seen in our country is what we call a narrowcasting," the governor said at an event late last year. " If you're a Republican, you've got to look to your right. And if you're a Democrat, you've got to look to your left. Why is it that things don't get done? Because everybody's locked down, and there is at times a fundamental intolerance for another point of view. Now how are we supposed to get people together? And that's why we basically have stalemates and lockdowns. It's not a system that serves our nation very well."

5. The Critics: With every State of the State comes a measure of criticism, and there will be opposition to some of what the governor has to say during tonight's speech.

Democrats likely will paint a different picture of the state of the state, spotlighting lagging job and economic growth, infant mortality, drug abuse and other issues.

"Ohio has serious challenges," said Gavin DeVore Leonard, state director of One Ohio Now, a coalition of union, social service and other advocacy groups. "We'll need investments to solve them, and we're going to need more revenue to make that possible."

He added, "If we're talking, is Ohio making progress as a whole, I think the short answer is no. When we look at the broad set of data that reports on all of the metrics, the reality is that the data shows that we've been struggling and we continue to struggle."

Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at mkovac@recordpub.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

 


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