Ohio legislators have different views on Gov. John Kasich's message

By Mike Sever | Staff Writer Published:

Gov. John Kasich's vision for Ohio is going to face some challenges in the General Assembly, according to two state legislators who represent Portage County.

State Sen. John Eklund, a Republican, said he thinks Kasich's State of the State address Tuesday gave a synopsis of past successes that will serve as the building blocks for Ohio's future.

"We're making progress, we're making great strides," Eklund said.

Eklund said he heard Kasich "acknowledging on most of the initiatives that it has to go through the legislative process," and that the end result may or may not be exactly what the governor wants. Eklund's 18th District covers all of Portage County and parts of Geauga and Lake counties to the north.

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde, whose 75th District covers most of Portage County, said the governor's Turnpike plans and school funding ideas will have a tough fight.

The Kent Democrat said Kasich's plan to lower income taxes and broaden the sales tax will be a major issue for legislators. Kasich's plan would include taxes on dozens of services and purchases that have not been subject to a sales tax.

Eklund acknowledged there will be a legislative fight over the sales tax proposal.

"It's a big change in focus. We can expect people to resist change," Eklund said. But, he said, the dialogue "should be on what is best for the fiscal soundness and business and employment atmosphere in Ohio. Which one is going to create the environment where people will come and create employment in Ohio."

Clyde said the governor will see opposition from both Democrats and Republicans on some of his proposals.

"I think the governor is getting it from both sides," Clyde said.

She said conservative Republicans are questioning his expansion of state Medicaid program and increasing the severance tax on large gas and oil producers while Republicans from northern Ohio are opposed to borrowing against the turnpike revenues and using the money statewide.

"He has some difficult waters to navigate there," Clyde said.

She said she thought Kasich "made some persuasive arguments" and was reaching out to the most conservative Republicans on expanding Medicaid.

"I think it would be foolish of us to not get that money back," she said. Clyde said the expansion will save money by covering people who now go to hospital emergency rooms when health issues go from bad to worse.

On the other side, Democrats are worried about Kasich's proposal to cut income taxes and expand the sales tax, and how school funding will shake out.

"Democrats are worried about whether tax cuts to the wealthy is the best way forward" for Ohio, Clyde said, "and how the expansion of sales tax is going to hit middle and lower-income Ohioans."

Eklund said he was "cautiously in favor" of Kasich's proposal to fund statewide transportation issues by borrowing against future Ohio Turnpike revenues. He said it " affords a real opportunity to start tackling some of the infrastructure issues we have faced for a long time."

Eklund said he believes "we need to look at our infrastructure as a statewide issue." He said he believes some people will use the issue to "try to divide northern and southern Ohio."

Clyde said believes it is "fiscally irresponsible plan to take the state into a $1.5 billion into new debt."

She said people were relieved when Kasich announced he would not do a sale or lease of the turnpike and promised that 90 percent of revenues would stay in northern Ohio and that tolls would be frozen.

"We get the bill and there is no language to address either of those promises," Clyde said.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1125 or msever@recordpub.com

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