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SANDUSKY -- Gov. John Kasich has directed a state panel to pump up to $20 million into efforts counter the state's ongoing opiate epidemic.
The funds will go to research efforts related to managing pain without using prescription opiates, which are viewed as a gateway to heroin and other drugs.
"I think that $20 million will be worth it, and I'm excited to see what we get," Kasich said.
The governor announced the Third Frontier Commission investment Tuesday night in Sandusky during his State of the State speech before about 1,500 in a historic downtown theater.
During an address that stretched more than an hour, the governor mostly stuck to central themes of his administration -- "fiscal strength, lower taxes, proper regulation" and help for people living in the shadows.
"The state of our state remains strong, and the state of our state remains stable, but holding onto the progress we've made takes vigilance," he said. "Changes await, and only by holding the line on conservative budgeting, fostering job creation and recommitting ourselves to helping each other along on our journey will we succeed in the coming years."
It was Kasich's seventh address to a joint session of the Ohio House and Senate and the sixth away from the Statehouse, following earlier stops in Steubenville, Lima, Medina, Wilmington and Marietta. This year's location, the Sandusky State Theatre, was within view of Sandusky Bay and the state's northern shore.
He touted work under his administration to protect Lake Erie, including investing about $2.5 billion in related water quality efforts since he took office. State officials announced a new $1 million grant Monday to help restore wetlands in the Sandusky area.
Kasich also spotlighted Ohio's growing work force, bolstered by companies like Borgers in Norwalk, Fuyao in Dayton, Amazon in suburban Columbus and others, which are driving a need for workers with technology and other skills.
Tuesday night, Kasich also announced the formation of a new task force including business and industry leaders, who will work with school officials to consider Ohio's changing work force.
"We have to get our children ready for the jobs of the future," he said.
On the state budget, the governor urged support for his tax reform package, which includes a small income tax cut backed, in part, by higher taxes on cigarettes, other tobacco and vaping products, alcohol and oil and gas produced via fracking.
Republican legislative leaders aren't supportive of many parts of Kasich's tax proposal, but the governor defended his tax-shifting plan and focus on reducing income tax rates.
"You look at the states across this country that have the fastest economic growth, they either have no income tax or very low income tax," he said. "It matters We're never going to be competitive as we need to be if we don't keep paying attention to this."
Kasich also urged lawmakers to move his proposal to centralize municipal tax filings -- a change that he said would save $800 million.
Kasich also encouraged continued support for needy residents, via a Medicaid expansion enacted under his administration and efforts to help out-of-work Ohioans get back on their feet.
"Welfare without a path to work doesn't work," he said.
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.