Gov. John Kasich on Job Growth, an Oil and Gas Tax and his Reelection Bid

Kasich speaks at a 2014 bill-signing event in Cleveland. (Nick Castele / ideastream)
Kasich speaks at a 2014 bill-signing event in Cleveland. (Nick Castele / ideastream)
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(Hear Karen Kasler's interview with Democratic candidate Ed FitzGerald.)

In his three-plus years as governor, John Kasich has had a relationship with reporters that’s been aloof, contentious and sometimes even confrontational. But as this election comes closer – and the polls show him further distancing himself from his Democratic opponent, Ed FitzGerald – Kasich is more relaxed and affable, even when asked about the anger that’s been bubbling up around his refusal to debate.

“We offered a couple debate opportunities, which they rejected," Kasich said. "And then their campaign kind of went away, and then we received an ultimatum, and you know, I don’t really take that well to ultimatums. So we just moved on.”

Kasich won’t mention FitzGerald by name at all, saying campaigns are always about the incumbent. And after repeated questions about the arguments his critics have thrown at his policies, Kasich dismissed them this way.

“You know, they criticize baseball teams, football teams – it’s just part of the job," he said. "But what you have to do is just keep your eye on the ball, which is to lift the folks in this state and just keep moving.”

Kasich talked up his policies on education, such as the third grade reading guarantee and the innovation fund that gives grants to schools – which critics have said doesn’t do much to help schools that got big cuts in Kasich’s first budget.

And he firmly connected education to jobs. Kasich said a quarter of a million jobs have been added in Ohio since he took office, and he disputed Democrats’ claims that Ohio’s job creation is lower than national average.

Kasich said Ohio is eighth nationally in job growth and second in the Midwest, though his own Office of Budget and Management has Ohio’s year-over-year employment growth behind the five states contiguous to Ohio. And Kasich refuted the argument that Ohio is bringing in too many low-paying jobs with this:

“Basically, we are diversifying Ohio’s economy, because we don’t just want to be agriculture and manufacturing, although those things are important to us," he said. "And at the same time, wages are going above the national average. So -- is it ever good enough? Nah. Of course it isn’t. And what can get you higher wages? More education.”

And Kasich said again that JobsOhio, which has been vilified by critics for a lack of accountability and transparency, is the most transparent private organization in the state. Democrats have said that Kasich’s income and business tax cuts and his increase in the sales tax have benefited the wealthy.

But Kasich noted that he’s added an earned income tax credit and lowered the personal deduction for low-income taxpayers.

However, there is one tax hike he vows to get – an increase on oil and gas drillers. And it won’t be the one that passed the Republican-run Ohio House, a proposal he calls a joke and an insult.

“As John Paul Jones says, I have not yet begun to fight," Kasich said. "But we can’t let these companies take our valuable stuff out of this state and not pay for it. It’s – I feel very passionately about this.”

Kasich said right now so-called right to work legislation, “Isn’t worth talking about, because the relationship between management and labor is good.”

He also said he has no more restrictions he’d like to see on abortion rights, and instead wants to concentrate on lowering the infant mortality rate.

And Kasich said he not only supports what he called “traditional marriage," but hinted that he’d oppose an effort to overturn the state’s ban on same-sex marriage if it comes to the ballot.

And as for the 2016 ballot – Kasich said the presidential rumors flatter him, but he doesn’t figure he’ll be moving out of Ohio.

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