Ohio Gov. John Kasich campaigned in Independence last night at a major county GOP fundraising dinner. Kasich offered a look at his three years in office as he readies to deliver his State of the State speech and gears up for a reelection bid. ideastream’s Nick Castele reports.
At the Cuyahoga County Republicans’ annual Lincoln Day dinner, Kasich spoke to a seemingly friendly crowd of hundreds of local and state party operatives and officeholders -- including members of congress and the speaker of the Ohio House.
And though he was in the county where his likely Democratic opponent Ed FitzGerald serves as executive, Kasich didn’t mention him.
Instead, he told his audience that throughout his term he’d turned a budget with a deficit into one with a surplus, eliminated the estate tax and brought down income taxes. And he hinted at what he might have planned for the rest of his term.
“We’re going to be proposing another tax cut to get the income tax under five percent," Kasich said. "Because we don’t want our best and brightest, when we look for the innovators, the job creators, we don’t want to have to go to Naples, Florida, to find them. We want them to stay right here in Ohio.”
Kasich said his administration had strengthened state schools by instituting its third-grade reading guarantee policy, which requires students to pass a set reading level before advancing to fourth grade.
And he said Cleveland’s schools are better positioned thanks to new rules granting administrators more power over hiring and firing teachers. Kasich said Cleveland’s Democratic Mayor Frank Jackson, the teacher’s union and state lawmakers had put together a plan that deserves national attention.
“This reform plan in the Cleveland schools is the most significant reform plan in the northern part of the United States of America and serves as a model for the rest of the country," he said.
Kasich tried to thread his zeal for advancing pro-business policies together with a message that he’s looking out for the state’s poorest and most suffering residents.
He said the state is taking steps to thwart heroin addiction. And he cast the expansion of Medicaid eligibility as a compassionate move that, among other things, will help the mentally ill afford treatment.
“And now with bringing our federal dollars back here to help us, we’re starting to crack in to provide the resources to give those who are mentally ill a chance," he said.
Many Republican lawmakers -- including those in the audience -- had been reluctant to vote in favor of that expansion, forcing the governor to look to the state controlling board to approve the plan.
Democrats have criticized Kasich for cutting back on state aid to local governments and raising the sales tax in his budgets. Contacted after the Lincoln Day event, Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Jerid Kurtz said Kasich’s tax cuts have given bigger gains to the wealthy.
“The governor is not attuned to what is going on with the middle class," Kurtz said. "He’s very focused on the folks at the very top, on the millionaires that are getting tax cuts. He’s not focused on the folks at the bottom end and in the middle class.”
Kasich will lay out more of his agenda – and perhaps begin to lay out a case for his reelection -- in his State of the State speech in Medina later this month. Last night he warned his Republican audience that the speech will be a long one.