By Stacy Kess
Gov. John Kasich stepped onto the patio at Bun’s Restaurant Saturday while a crowd of local politicians and Republican supporters cheered “four more years.”
State Auditor Dave Yost and U.S. Rep Pat Tiberi (R, 12th District) who opened the event with stump speeches praising the top Republican in the state said much as has been done since Kasich took office in 2011, but there is still much to do.
The successes: tax cuts, a balanced budget, a budget surplus and jobs returning to Ohio.
What needs to be done: bring stability to the economy in Ohio with more jobs and investment, protecting the rainy day fund, lower the income tax and changing the culture of politics.
While a lone protester stood several doors down from Bun’s with a “notkasich.com” sign — a Web site by “conservative Ohio voters” that criticizes Kasich for issues involving Worthington Christian Schools (the school Kasich’s children attended) — the Governor used his time at the microphone to praise Ohio’s growth and to criticize a polarized and often paralyzed political environment.
“The lesson is, if you don’t change the culture, the numbers don’t matter,” Kasich said, referring to the balancing of Ohio’s budget and the balanced Federal Budget he oversaw as Chairman of the House Budget Committee during his tenure as U.S. Representative.
The half-hour campaign stop began with a discussion of job loss and job gain.
“Think about Ohio Stadium being filled three-and-a-half times and think of those people leaving the stadium and saying to their loved ones, ‘I just lost my job,’” he said. “We are now filling that stadium with people who can say, ‘We’ve got work.’”
Kasich touted the more than 200,000 jobs created and retained since he took office, crediting much of that to JobsOhio, a non-profit created to focus on Ohio employment, often criticized by Democrats.
He quickly moved from jobs to the budget. When Ohio replaced then-incumbent Democrat Ted Strickland as governor in 2011, Ohio had an $8 billion dollar budget deficit.
Kasich pushed for a balanced budget immediately after taking office, but held fast to a promise to do it without raising taxes. At the same time, he insisted in adding money to the “rainy day fund.” He reminded the crowd that the state cut taxes during the budget process and that the state now has a $1.48 billion budget surplus.
Then the Governor turned his attention to his own party.
“Republicans too much of the time have lost their zeal for tax cuts,” he said. “They’d rather pass out money … for immediate gratification.”
He said “tax cuts cannot always be seen,” but that he does not intend to allow Ohio politicians to “blow the surplus.” He told the crowd with a balanced budget, a surplus and a stable financial situation, Ohio can cut income taxes, a priority for the Kasich if he returns to office for a second term.
“When a state is stronger, we are in a better position to help people,” he said.
He said he wants Ohio to be able to help those with mental illness, developmental disabilities and anyone willing to take the initiative get work through job training and assistance. He did repeat the party line that the government should not support those who will not help themselves, but did not blast any of Ohio’s assistance programs.
In fact, during the half-hour speech, Kasich neither mentioned his opponent Ed Fitzgerald, who picked up media attention over the week for personal issues and gaffes. Nor did he criticize the Democratic Party, which blasted him in July for slow job creation, continued increase in unemployment claims and June’s job report showing 5,000 Ohians dropped out of the workforce.
Kasich’s only mention of the president came in a statement regarding a culture of disrespect.
“The fact that respect toward our president, respect for our teacher, respect for our elders is a thing of the past … these (are) values that seem to be fleeting,” he said. “We can’t have that in Delaware.”
Kasich wrapped up his speech calling for a change in politics, if Ohio is to complete its recovery. He recalled the balanced Federal budget of the late 1990s, which brought Republicans and Democrats together for a common cause.
“I’m convinced if we work together, we’ll be okay,” he said.
Reporter Stacy Kess can be found on Twitter @StacyMKess.