In keeping with his commitment to take state government to the people, Governor John Kasich delivered this year’s State of the State Address in Marietta, Ohio. Marietta was chosen as the city celebrates its 228th anniversary on April 7th and to honor the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory. The day included visits to area businesses and attractions by members of the General Assembly and the administration and a hearing of the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee
Governor Kasich’s speech was highly anticipated and the focus of national attention this year as he continues to seek the Republican nomination for president and with 6 more primaries occurring this month, including in the key states of New York and Pennsylvania. Much of the Governor’s speech was focused on highlighting past successes and the progress the state has seen since the Governor took office. He noted that when he took office the state faced an $8 billion budget deficit and a nearly non-existent emergency fund, but now has a balanced budget and an emergency fund worth approximately $2 billion. Additionally, that Ohio has enacted over $5 billion in tax cuts and has faster than average wage growth. These factors led Governor Kasich to conclude that Ohio has been “lifted out of the ditch” and that the outlook for the future is “bright and hopeful.” With a focus on education, job growth and helping those in need, some of the accomplishments Governor Kasich highlighted were:
- Expanded, high quality early childhood education
- A 94% passage rate for the 3rd Grade Reading Guarantee test
- Increased opportunities for adult learners and mentorship programs for high school students
- The Start Talking program to help parents and adults talk to children about the dangers of drug abuse
- Medicaid expansion has increased access to healthcare for women, the mentally ill and those suffering from addiction issues
- Efforts to improve community-police relations
While primarily focused on past achievements, the Governor did offer a couple of hints on new policies that the administration would be pursuing over the next year. As always, the Governor advocated for more cuts to the personal income tax. Governor Kasich has consistently advocated for a tax system less dependent on income taxes while increasing revenue from consumption based taxes like the sales tax. He also called for the General Assembly to accelerate the implementation of tax cuts that were included in the state’s operating budget last year. The Governor also touted the recently introduced House Bill 474 which contains the administration’s proposals to make higher education more accessible and affordable.
Governor Kasich stated that he expects to ask for the introduction of legislation soon to continue the war on drugs, including requiring registration and training for pharmacy technicians and limits on opioid prescriptions. He also strongly urged the General Assembly to act to address Congressional redistricting, as has recently been done for state legislative districts. Following recent tradition, Governor Kasich concluded this year’s speech with the awarding of the Governor’s Courage awards. This year’s recipients included:
- Margo Hudson of Cleveland - Ms. Hudson is the 2016 National Adult Learner of the Year and serves as a tutor and mentor to other adults seeking to earn their General Equivalency Degree (GED)
- Wallace Peck of Columbus - Mr. Peck is an artist whose work is exhibited in the Governor’s Mansion, the Columbus Museum of Art and other institutions. Mr. Peck has overcome developmental disabilities and homelessness to achieve artistic success
- Kelli Allman, Belpre City School District Superintendent Tony Dunn and Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks, all of Washington County - Ms. Allman, Mr. Dunn and Sheriff Mincks received the award for their work to combat drug addiction in Washington County
With the State of the State delivered, Governor Kasich will head back out onto the campaign trail and the General Assembly will return to Columbus to resume work after being away for their annual spring break.