Kasich Pitches Budget Proposal in Cleveland

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In classic Kasich style, the governor opened his talk at the City Club of Cleveland [watch now online] with a summary of accomplishments since taking office. He listed eliminating the budget shortfall, passing a transportation bill, and presiding over a recovering state economy.

KASICH:”A net gain of 135,000 jobs in the state of Ohio. And that shows we’re coming back.”

Kasich reserved the emotional high point in his remarks for his proposal to expand Medicaid coverage to hundreds of thousands more Ohioans. That’s controversial for Republicans, because it’s part of the federal healthcare reform law. Some conservatives worry it’ll weigh more heavily on the state budget down the road.

But Kasich said the poor and people with mental illness and addiction shouldn’t be ignored

KASICH: “This is Ohio. This is a great, industrial, big-sized, big-time state. We will to make this work. And we’re not going to ignore people who live in the shadows. It is not right.”

In a lighter moment, he joked about how far he might go to win the support of some fellow Republicans.

KASICH: “I see Marlene Anielski, whose vote I need on Medicaid expansion. I should go out and wash her car, right?”

And he quipped that some lawmakers might need an extra push from the audience.

KASICH: "These legislators are of good will. Kick them in the shins, though, if they're not going to vote for this thing."

Lawmakers are also cold to the governor’s proposal to levy a sales tax on services such as haircuts and fees for accountants and attorneys.

Kasich said that expansion supports the more popular part of his tax plan, a 20 percent income tax cut. He looked to state Tax Commissioner Joe Testa to make the case for it.

TESTA: “We have become a service-based economy. Two thirds of our consumption is service, not goods. But our tax code doesn’t reflect that.”

Another issue that came up was Attorney General Mike DeWine’s request that the federal government exempt private employers from paying for health coverage for contraception if those employers object to it for religious reasons.

During the audience question-and-answer session, Kasich was asked what he thought of DeWine’s position.

KASICH: “You know, ma’am, I don’t know. I don’t want to get into answering something until I have full knowledge of what’s being talked about.”

Kasich said he wasn’t aware of the issue, and asked if he could get back to her with an answer.

Following the City Club Forum, Representative Anielski –- whose car Kasich joked earlier about washing—said maybe there was a way to meet in the middle on Medicaid. She said perhaps the state could still offer aid for people with mental illness and addiction.

ANIELSKI: “Maybe we can still help that segment of the population without taking the Medicaid expansion.”

Also in the audience was Democratic State Representative Vernon Sykes. He said that he opposed the sales tax plan, calling it regressive.

SYKES: “I think it’s very problematic. And I would be very surprised if that would survive.”

But Sykes admitted that, in a general assembly controlled by Republicans, it’s the GOP that has the power to make the decisions.

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