Ohio Gov. John R. Kasich was on his game Friday at a year end review event hosted by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce that featured supporting roles by fellow Republican House and Senate legislative leaders.
Kasich pushes more income tax cuts
Running for a second term next year, Gov. Kasich's look back on his administration's accomplishments this year was delivered with the kind of showmanship that's trademarked his life in politics since entering it in 1978, when he earned his first electoral win defeating an incumbent Democrat in the state senate.
The umbrella theme of today's event was to build on improving economic revitalization and growing national reputation for a jobs-friendly business climate. "Today, there are more Ohioans with a private sector job than at any time since 2008. And while much progress has been made since 2011—including the creation of 174,800 jobs, higher incomes and a record number of new business filings—there is work to be done," information provided by the governor's office said.
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Achievements through the year were made possible through strong partnerships between the Kasich Administration and the General Assembly, which is coincidentally controlled by a friendly Republican supermajority in the House and Senate, making Kasich reforms immediately acceptable but not always a foregone conclusion, as that last battle of the budget demonstrated when lawmakers either gutted or reworked several of his key proposals.
While Kasich promised more good news to come on jobs, now standard fare at events like this over his three years on the job, what he didn't mention was that Ohio's unemployment rate over the last 12 months has gone from 6.7 percent in December of 2012 to 7.5 percent today. November 2013 unemployment rates and nonagricultural wage and salary data for Ohio will be released by the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services tomorrow.
Unfortunately for Gov. Kasich, the state under his control has had lackluster growth of 1.4 percent over the past 12 months. Modest private-sector job growth, meanwhile, has been partly offset especially by local government job losses. Since the end of the 2009 recession, Ohio has seen a very slow 3 percent job-growth rate and over the last 12 months, the state grew by a dismal 0.5 percent while the nation as a whole grew at 1.7 percent.
At the same time Ohio's unemployment rate has gone higher, the unemployment rate for the nation has dipped to seven percent from 8.1 percent one year ago. Moreover, economic news Wednesday for the nation was good enough that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, who spoke for the last time as fed chairman before his successor Janet Yellen takes over next year, signaled that the nation's central bank will begin scaling back its stimulus [also known as quantitative easing] by $10 billion a month to $75 billion in bond purchases. On that news, the Dow Jones industrial average rose 50.43 points or 0.32 percent, to 15,925.69.
The CEO governor was at home before an audience of about 200 local chamber members and others who gathered at the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Columbus near the Statehouse. In 2010, when then citizen Kasich, who was proud to call himself a Wall Street banker having spent six years working as a rainmaker at the investment banking of Lehman Brothers, whose collapse busted the housing bubble that triggered the meltdown on Wall Street the nation has yet fully to recover from, the Ohio Chamber broke tradition and endorsed Kasich over incumbent Democratic Governor Ted Strickland, whose one term started as the Great Recession of 2008-09 was maturing. Kasich cashed in on Strickland's woes, saying he would outperform the nation if elected, which he was by a mere 77,127 votes statewide.
Kasich instructed his audience to always be for cutting taxes, especially income taxes. As he did in his 2010 campaign, Gov. Kasich dreams of the day Ohio will have no income tax like Texas, Nevada or Florida, states he said people are moving to for that very reason.
When Les is more. Can he make Ohio "Cool?"
The news of the day came midway through Kasich's now standard supply-side soliloquy when he talked about the need to better market Ohio. According to the governor, Les Wexner, the billionaire retailer and founder of Limited Brands, headquartered in Columbus, offered to help with a marketing plan for the state.
"I don’t know if we’re going to have a Victoria’s Secret-type marketing plan for Ohio, but it isn’t a bad thought, is it?" Kasich said.
How to get people to think Ohio is cool, that's the question. "They find out there's no traffic, the cost of living is so much lower than it is on the coast, even in places like Chicago, we have great schools, we have neighborhoods that are terrific. The question is how to get'em here? We have to let them know about this. Once they know they want to be here," he said, adding a favorite refrain of his, "there is an element of cool ... the cool factor matters." Kasich said Wexner wants to help. "The guys a brilliant marketer and we couldn't have any one better, " he said. Will it be a Victoria Secrets style marketing plan? Kasich said he didn't know how it's going to work.
Kasich also talked about "shining up the state" through a ten-year $1.87 billion water, sewer, road, bridge and other local projects funding proposal Ohioans will be asked to approve in May. On top of this program, a 10-year, $50 million-a-year effort to address a long overdue infrastructure needs at state parks will become part of next year’s capital budget for bricks-and-mortar projects.
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The proposed program—Senate Joint Resolution 6—will fund projects at the rate of $150 million a year, which would increase to $175 million during the renewed program’s first five years, followed by $200 million for the next five years.
Democrat wants more
Responding today to the infrastructure spending plan, recently elected Senate Democratic Leader Joe Schiavoni of Boardman said he agrees that the program has been popular with local governments. The problem, he said in a statement to media, is that the proposal doesn’t go far enough.
"Let’s be clear. You can’t fix Ohio’s infrastructure problems with an additional $25 million a year," he said. "That’s why Senate Democrats will continue to push for bigger investments in our local communities to address the billions of dollars’ worth of infrastructure needs that exist across the state." Schiavoni oversees only ten Senate Democrats, so they ability to affect this or any other bill is effectively nil.
In the wake of Gov. Kasich's achievement of borrow $1.5 billion against future Ohio Turnpike tolls to pay for highway and bridge projects away from the turnpike, the plan appears to modulate critics from local communities for more infrastructure funding. Even Senate President Faber, a fiscal hawk and Kasich wing man in the upper chamber who some Capital Square insiders believe will run for governor some day, acknowledged "local governments have been having a tough time in some capacity." He said the governor's plan is a good start but the legislature will shape it. "I'm not going to play much of a role," Kasich said on 60 Seconds Ohio.
Kasich on inequality, minimum wage
Included in the day's menu of topics was fiscal order, job creation and job-creating infrastructure, empowering parents and teachers to help children achieve, strengthening higher education to prepare workers for the workforce, transforming to transform Medicaid, strengthening crime protection and safety and protecting the vulnerable populations.
Talking with reporters following the event, Gov. Kasich avoided answering a question about whether he thinks increasing the minimum wage will help with the issue of inequality, which he acknowledged and which in a speech last week President Obama called the "challenge of our time." The former Congressman pivoted to a favorite topic, education, as an indirect answer to an issue that is gaining ground with Americans who are still smarting for job losses, stagnant wages, and a realization their life may be worse off than that of their parents.
Kasich in toss up race with Democratic challenger FitzGerald
In a poll released Monday by a national polling firm known for its accuracy, Gov. Kasich is polling at just 40 percent, "a very weak position for an incumbent," according to Tom Jensen, Director of Public Policy Polling, who said next year's race for governor looks like a toss up.
In its most recent survey of the Ohio Governor’s race, Jensen said " Kasich's Democratic challenger, Ed FitzGerald, is only two points behind at 38 percent. What will make the race next year exciting for FitzGerald and scary for Kasich is knowing that Libertarian Party candidate Charlie Earl, if he makes the ballot, could nab 6 percent of the vote in what most pundits believe will be a very close election.
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