By Marc Kovac
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.
“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.
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:
The Basics: 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 such as 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.
“We have tough fiscal times, but we have to deal with it,” Kasich said.
The Reform: 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 workforce needs.
“That’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.
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.”
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.
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.”