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Kasich's State Of The State Speech Gets National Spotlight This Year

Statehouse News Bureau
Governor Kasich shakes hands with attendees after last year's State of the State speech

Gov. John Kasich gives his annual State of the State speech is likely to be a little different this year. When he speaks Wednesday night in Marietta, he will be doing so as a presidential candidate. That could affect what he says, and there will be plenty of people listening.

Republican State Representative Andy Thompson says he’s excited his city, Marietta, will be in the spotlight in this year’s State of the State.

Credit Ohio Channel
Republican State Representative Andy Thompson

“I think it will probably have elements of more of a presidential speech as much as it is a State of the State. I’m obviously pleased our part of the state is benefitting from the travelling road show. I expect there will be national media, much more so than other state of the state speeches.”

Thompson says he expects Kasich will talk about his experience balancing budgets. And he thinks Kasich will talk about job growth in Ohio since he took office. He also suspects Kasich might talk about what he and Ohio lawmakers have done to try to reduce opioid abuse in Ohio.

“I think that’s one that plays to his strength because it is showing a level of compassion for those who are struggling, how it impacts families, our work force. You know there are a lot of tragic stories out there. People are losing their lives every day to the grip of addiction. And so some of the things we’ve worked on in Ohio have been groundbreaking.”

There’s another area, in particular, that Thompson says offers great promise for future jobs for his area…..shale.

“Every candidate from Trump to Cruz to Kasich talks about bringing jobs back from overseas. With what this energy economy promises, with proximity to an inexpensive resource, we think we can see tremendous job growth long term.”

But some Democratic state lawmakers say the Ohio miracle that Kasich likes to talk about on the campaign trail isn’t real. Democratic State Representative Kent Smith.

Credit Jo Ingles
Democratic State Representative Kent Smith (at podium) and Kristen Boggs (background)

“The Ohio miracle is spin. It’s not really reality. Our median household income has been below the national average and continues to drop below the national average. We are seventh in population. We are tenth in private sector job growth. If things were at average, we would be at least seventh on that matrix. The Governor has balanced his budget on the backs of others.”

Smith says 31 communities throughout Ohio don’t have enough local government funding to operate because of state budget cuts and state tax cuts in recent years. He says his own community has fallen in serious financial distress. He says most of the fire department’s equipment is out of service right now. And last year, Smith says a house fire spread to three largely because there weren’t enough local resources to fight the fire.

“East Cleveland had 13 intersections where the traffic signals are not operational. According to city staff on road repairs, East Cleveland had 70 streets that needed to be resurfaced. About half of those 35 needed water and sewer work beneath the surface.”

Fellow Democratic Representative Kristen Boggs says the problems are in communities statewide.

“Niles, Ohio, for example, who has increased their own taxes by two million dollars but still has had to make major cuts to its police force. Residents in these communities have also seen cuts made to basic infrastructure repair and upkeep like Massillon, Ohio, who needed to initiate a $300,000 street lighting fee from its taxpayers and Maple Heights, Ohio, who can’t afford repaint lines on city streets or collect yard waste, despite having to raise taxes four times.”

In a written statement, Kasich’s spokesman, Joe Andrews, said Ohio has seen stronger local budgets and public employee pay raises during the past few years. Kasich will be out of state till Wednesday – he’s been in Wisconsin ahead of that state’s primary on Tuesday. It’s expected the national media will swoop in to cover Kasich’s speech, since there are repeated calls from many for Kasich to suspend his campaign.  He could do that but he’s not giving hints that he will. He’s promising to stay in until this summer’s convention in Cleveland.