What a year it’s been for Gov. John Kasich, who came into office facing an $8 billion deficient, 400,000 jobs lost over the previous four years and unemployment stuck at over 10 percent. Ohio was sick and hurting, but true to his campaign pledge, the governor has tackled many difficult problems with a determination to fix our state.
Working with Republicans in the statehouse, Kasich submitted a budget that eliminated the $8 billion shortfall, preserved a $400 million income tax reduction, and reduced taxes by another $300 million by repealing the estate tax. What’s remarkable is that Kasich closed the budget gap not just by making cuts, but by finding new and better ways of doing things. Stimulus money was drying up, and he was well aware the federal government was not a reliable partner when 40 cents of every dollar was borrowed from China. Ohio had to stand on its own.
Rainy day fund
When Kasich became governor, Ohio’s rainy day fund held just 89 cents. With the help of strong budget leadership and an improving economy, Ohio was able to deposit $250 million into the fund. Ohio’s AA+ credit rating went from “negative” to “stable”.
Ohio had too many regulations that were not contributing to the public good and some were actually harmful. Kasich created the Common Sense Initiative, led by Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, to bring common sense to Ohio regulation and reduce some of the burdens on business.
Ohio added or retained over 80,000 jobs during Kasich’s first year in office. This included over 250 projects to promote job creation or expansion leading to $4.5 billion in new or saved payrolls. As of Oct. 2011, Ohio was 8th in the nation in job creation and first in the Midwest region.
To improve accountability, Ohio will actually measure the return on investment of economic growth incentives. For example, this year some 91 per cent of state approved projects will earn a return on taxpayer funds in just the first or second year.
The governor is guiding Ohio through the early stages of an energy revolution as we explore for natural gas. He has said there is great promise, but we must protect the environment while allowing for responsible development of Ohio resources.
Other accomplishments includes the battle against pain medication abuse by shutting down “pill mills,” improving treatment for injured workers, a renewed focus on high school and college graduation rates, reforming workforce development, promoting home care for seniors, strengthening the mental health system, promoting shared services among governments, reducing prison violence, and streamlining the EPA and BMV to improve service and outcomes, and many more.
With the approval by Ohioans of casino gambling, the governor is working to allow smaller communities to benefit from the relocation or redevelopment of racetracks. Austintown will likely be the home of a thoroughbred racetrack with the promise of millions of dollars in new construction and jobs.
With the creation of Jobs Ohio, cutting taxes, the creation of the Common Sense Initiative, and working every day to make government better and smarter, Gov. Kasich is making Ohio great again. Ohio is becoming a place where businesses, college graduates and our senior citizens want to move to rather than move away from. Ohio is in good hands.
Mark E. Munroe is chairman of the Mahoning County Republican Party.