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State of the State

Gov. John Kasich offered Ohioans a smorgasbord of ideas during his State of the State speech Tuesday in Medina.
While most of the proposals are likely to be incorporated into Kasich’s upcoming 2014 supplemental budget plan, legislators could find some of the offerings unpalatable.
And considering this is an election year, Kasich may not be able to push too hard on certain proposals despite the fact he has Republican majorities in both the House and Senate. Voters, after all, will be watching.
One matter certain to get a closer look is his proposal for new tax cuts, which, if approved, would drop Ohio’s income tax rate to below 5 percent.
Since taking office in 2011, Kasich and the Legislature have reduced taxes by $3 billion by eliminating the death tax, cutting small business taxes in half, and cutting the state income tax by 10 percent. Kasich claims those cuts have helped create jobs and have spurred the economy, but not all experts agree.
While the details have not been disclosed, Kasich would presumably make up for the loss of tax revenue by increasing Ohio’s severance tax on oil and natural gas drilling. But the severance tax has been under discussion for a year and is something Republicans in the House and Senate can’t even agree on, let alone Democrats.
Other Kasich ideas, though, may get bipartisan support.
One would give Ohio’s military veterans no-cost academic credit for their training and experience, as well as help them secure federal G.I. Bill financial support to pay for professional license and certificate tests. Kasich believes that would help remove barriers to veterans’ return to civilian life and also give employers better access to skilled workers.
Kasich’s call to renew the war on tobacco also appears to be a no-brainer, considering the percentage of people who smoke has been rising since 2008, when prevention, cessation and enforcement program funding was cut. Today, one in five adults smokes.
The governor wants to allocate $8 million to the attorney general for tobacco settlement enforcement responsibilities and $26.9 million to the Ohio Department of Health to support a five-year plan to revive various programs.
Among the better education ideas, Kasich wants to prevent students from dropping out of high school by identifying at-risk children earlier and expanding Ohio’s network of technical and vocational education opportunities. Vo-ed, which is currently offered to high school students, would start as early as the seventh grade, giving more students a jump-start on career education.
Those schools not able or ready to expand would be able to opt out.
Kasich also wants to increase access to safe places for those 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. That idea will likely gain support, too, considering the state is in the midst of a heroin drug epidemic.
In the end, Kasich may get most of what he’s asked for. The question is whether that happens before, or after, the election.

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