By MARC KOVAC
Calling jobs “our greatest moral purpose” and defending a two-year spending plan that he says will ensure the state remains on the economic upswing, Gov. John Kasich outlined his vision for Ohio Tuesday night here.
“My mission is to make sure that everybody in our state has a chance to realize their hopes and dreams and that their families can do much better,” the governor said. “Because it’s not good enough for some to do well while we leave others behind. We must [work] everyday to make sure that everyone has a chance in Ohio.”
He added, “We are succeeding here in Ohio turning our state around, and it is fantastic.”
Kasich didn’t tread too much new ground before an audience of more than 1,700 lawmakers, state officials and other invited guests gathered in an auditorium just off this northwestern Ohio city’s central square.
He reviewed statistics he’s repeated to audiences since taking office — how Ohio is now tops in the Midwest in job creation, how 120,000-plus new jobs have been created and how there’s now $1.9 billion in the formerly depleted rainy day fund.
He touted his administration’s policy decisions — controlling Medicaid spending, reducing the size of state government, lowering taxes, refunding overpayments to businesses, establishing the JobsOhio nonprofit to coordinate the state’s economic development programs.
He talked about visiting the state as a child, “the promised land” across the state border from his hometown of McKees Rocks, Pa.
“I fell in love,” Kasich said. “I sensed Ohio’s excitement then. I felt its opportunity. I knew Ohio was going to be my home. ... It’s just so awesome here.”
He added, “Ohio is a land of hope and opportunity, realized dreams for our families. We’re safe. We’re friendly. We’re filled with the potential to pursue our passions. We take care of our neighbors. Ohio is a place where we can work, contribute, build a better community. We can be a shining example.”
As he has in multiple appearances since unveiling his biennial budget earlier this month, Kasich explained his plan for a small business and personal income tax cut, sales tax cut and broadening to include services and the oil and gas tax hike. He defended the latter to lawmakers, including Republican members who continue to voice concern about the proposal.
He also asked the GOP-controlled legislature to move quickly on his plan to leverage billions of dollars for road and bridge projects using the Ohio Turnpike.
He sought backing for his school funding package, which he said will provide increased state support for the poorest school districts. And he lobbied hard for an extension of Medicaid benefits for more needy Ohioans, saying federal dollars paid by Ohio taxpayers will go to another state if the eligibility levels are not raised.
“I’m not a supporter of Obamacare,” Kasich said, adding later, “I don’t believe in the individual mandate. I don’t like a lot of the programs that are going to drive insurance rates up. But in this case, extending Medicaid benefits will help us on many levels, including the positive impact this decision can have on the mentally ill and the addicted.”
For more on his plan, and are lawmakers and business people's response, read Wednesday's Vindicator or Vindy.com.