Education, jobs likely topics in Ohio gov's speech

JULIE CARR SMYTH AP Statehouse Correspondent Published:

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- Gov. John Kasich will deliver a State of the State speech Monday that emphasizes the Ohio's recent gains in private-sector jobs and lays out the Republican's latest ideas for improving the state's economy.

Education is likely to be a key theme of the address, which takes place at 7 p.m. Monday at the Performing Arts Center in Medina. This marks the third year in a row Kasich has taken the speech outside the Statehouse in Columbus.

Kasich has said that he'll elaborate on two ideas regarding education, including his belief that students need access to vocational options perhaps as early as seventh grade, and that the state should give educators more flexibility to prevent students from falling behind.

Kasich will introduce a midterm budget bill soon that could be the vehicle for the policy priorities of the fourth and final year of his term. He has signaled the bill may provide a mechanism for further reducing state income tax rates. He said during his 2010 campaign that he supported eventually eliminating the tax.

The $62 billion, two-year state budget Kasich signed in June cut Ohio's income tax rates by 8.5 percent in 2013, another half percent in 2014 and another 1 percent in 2015. These were Ohio's first downward revisions since 2009.

Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, Kasich's Democratic gubernatorial rival, has criticized Kasich's tax changes as disproportionately benefiting wealthier Ohioans while giving Ohioans in lower income brackets an amount about equivalent to the price of a pizza.

Kasich's choice of Medina as the site of this year's speech honors GOP House Speaker William Batchelder, who's winding up a 46-year career in public service this year. Batchelder represents the 69th House District, which includes most of Medina County.

Many of the new ideas the governor advances Monday face their toughest audience in the Republican-controlled chamber where Batchelder holds sway. The Ohio House blocked Kasich's proposed tax hike on oil and gas drillers, for example -- an idea that state lawmakers are now revisiting.

The local Chamber of Commerce has arranged tours of local manufacturers for state lawmakers on Monday, along with private receptions at area restaurants ahead of the speech.

One legislative committee planned to hold its meeting at the Medina Hospital's conference center.

The labor-backed We Are Ohio organization planned to discuss Kasich's policies at a site near the speech, arguing the governor has made it harder for working and middle-class families. The group led the successful 2011 ballot repeal of collective bargaining restrictions for public workers.

FitzGerald plans to watch the speech from his hometown of Lakewood.

Several dozen protesters gathered outside before the speech to protest Kasich policies.

"Everything that he has done so far has been against the working class people of this state," said Jamie Fant, of Dayton, a retired corrections officer.