Gov. Kasich gives State of the State address in Medina
Governor John Kasich traveled to Northern Ohio on Feb. 24 to deliver his annual State of the State address in Medina, home of House Speaker Bill Batchelder. This is the third year Gov. Kasich has taken the speech on the road, to the chagrin of some legislators who are required to travel long distances to attend the legislative session.
Gov. Kasich began his speech by touting improvements to Ohio’s economy, including efforts to plug an $8 billion budget deficit his first year in office. The state now has a $1.5 billion budget surplus. Gov. Kasich also touted a small business tax cut included in the recent biennium budget bill, which he said is important to him because half of the private sector workforce in Ohio comes from small businesses.
Legislators and statehouse interest groups looked forward to hearing what the governor plans to include in this year’s Mid-Biennium Review (MBR) bill. The MBR is a policy-heavy piece of legislation that is considered midway through Ohio’s biennium budget. The legislation is expected to be released by mid-March, but the administration has released very few details as to what will be included in the measure.
In telling the audience that his agenda is entirely centered on creating jobs in the state, Gov. Kasich said that since 1995 $12 billion in income has left Ohio for states with lower income taxes. Gov. Kasich told the audience that he has already worked with the legislature to cut income taxes by 10 percent, and he is proposing another round of tax cuts to get the top rate below five percent.
Gov. Kasich indicated education initiatives were critical in providing a ready workforce for job creation. The following are among the initiatives Gov. Kasich said he plans to pursue:
- Dropout prevention and recovery: Gov. Kasich will task the Ohio Department of Education to work with local school districts to develop policies that will help prevent students from dropping out of high school by identifying at-risk students earlier and developing individualized plans with an alternative path to their diploma. He said there are nearly 24,000 students who drop out every year. Additionally, he will propose a pilot program to provide new solutions for the one million Ohio adults who never finished high school to work with the state’s two-year colleges and earn their high school diplomas.
- Mentorships: The governor intends to launch a new initiative, Community Connectors, to support students through mentorship efforts. The program would be funded from $10 million in casino-licensing fees. The program would offer 3 to 1 matching grants and provide Ohio students with access to role models to help them develop skills that lead to success in school and in the workplace.
- Vocational education: A theme often repeated by Gov. Kasich is that four-year colleges are not for everyone. He will advocate for an expansion of the network of technical and vocational education to students as early as the seventh grade. School districts would be able to opt-out of the expansion by passing a resolution.
- Academic credit for veteran’s military training: Gov. Kasich will propose giving military veterans no-cost academic credit for their training and experience. Some colleges or universities currently charge for such credit. Additionally, the proposal will ensure that veterans receive help securing federal G.I. Bill financial support to pay for professional license and certificate tests.
Gov. Kasich went on to speak to those suffering with mental illness and addiction. “…we also can’t forget Ohioans who can only dream of being able to hold a job,” he said. He went on to speak to the following initiatives:
- Improving options: The governor said he plans to propose an initiative to increase access to safe places for Ohioans with mental illness and addiction, keep people off drugs and provide those in crisis with a place to seek help before they harm themselves or others. He used the example of a homeless veteran suffering from the effects of trauma and in need of a stable place to live being connected to transitional housing that includes access to services to get well, find training and employment and eventually move into a more permanent setting.
- Expand drug abuse program: Gov. Kasich said he will also propose expanding the state’s “Start Talking!” program by working with legislators to get the program adopted by more schools across the state. The program encourages parents and adults to talk with students about substance abuse. Gov. Kasich said the chance a child will use drugs reduces by 50 percent when this happens.
- Tobacco cessation: The governor will propose allocating $8 million from the Master Settlement Agreement to the Ohio Attorney General for tobacco settlement enforcement responsibilities. Additionally, he proposes appropriating nearly $27 million to the Ohio Department of Health to support a five-year plan for tobacco prevention, cessation and enforcement programs.
During his closing remarks, Gov. Kasich told legislators he had only talked about a portion of what will be included in the MBR. He acknowledged that some of the proposals he will send to them may not be passed within the year, but said he hopes that legislators will work with him to ensure that they receive proper consideration.
Legislation to watch
Volunteer officers: Sponsored by Senator John Eklund (R-Chardon), Senate Bill 288 would create the Volunteer Police Officers' Dependents Fund to provide death benefits to survivors of volunteer police officers killed in the line of duty and disability benefits to disabled volunteer police officers. The bill was introduced on Feb. 25.
Depository Act: Sponsored by Representative Robert Sprague (R-Findlay), House Bill 459 proposes to modify authorized investments of interim moneys and inactive moneys under the Uniform Depository Act. The bill was introduced on Feb. 25.
Used tires: Sponsored by Senator Tom Patton (R-Strongsville), Senate Bill 289 would regulate the sale of used tires and provide notice to consumers of the age and history of purchased used tires. The bill was introduced on Feb. 26.
Employer organizations: Sponsored by Representative Ross McGregor (R-Springfield), House Bill 462 would permit a professional employer organization to file federal taxes in any manner permitted by federal law. The bill was introduced on Feb. 26.
Educational service centers: Sponsored by Representative Andy Brenner (R-Powell) and Representative Denise Driehaus (D-Cincinnati), House Bill 342 permits an educational service center to be a partner or the lead applicant of an education consortium seeking a grant under the Straight A Program. The bill passed the Senate on Feb. 26.
Sales tax holiday: Sponsored by Senator Kevin Bacon (R-Columbus), Senate Bill 243 would provide a three-day sales tax 'holiday' each August during which sales of back-to-school clothing, school supplies, personal computers, and personal computer accessories are exempt from sales and use taxes. The bill passed the Senate on Feb. 26.
Green buildings: Sponsored by Senator Joe Uecker (R-Loveland), Senate Concurrent Resolution 25 urges Ohio state agencies and other government entities to use green building rating systems, codes or standards that are consistent with state energy efficiency and environmental performance objectives and policies that meet American National Standards Institute standard procedures. The resolution was approved by the Senate on Feb. 26.
Controlled substances: Sponsored by Representative Robert Sprague (R-Findlay), House Bill 366 would require hospice care programs to establish procedures to prevent diversion of controlled substances that contain opioids. The bill passed the House on Feb. 26.
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