MARC KOVAC: Waiting for Kasich's new policy goals

Record-Courier Capital bureau Published:

COLUMBUS -- Gov. John Kasich and his administration aren't telling reporters like me the exact timing of the release of their new mid-biennium review, the latest off-year policy package that's sure to keep lawmakers busy until their summer recess.

Kasich's expected to unveil the legislation around the time of his State of the State speech on Feb. 24, which would be ideal from a content standpoint, giving him some fresh policy proposals to discuss during the annual address to the Ohio House and Senate.

It would be a welcome change for Statehouse dwellers from the regular topics Kasich covers in his speeches.

That's not a criticism of the content, just an acknowledgement that I've listened to the governor's talking points repeatedly in recent months. (A reader pointed out the other week that people outside of capital city and the normal political circles appreciate the summary of his work in office to date, so I'm trying to keep my cynicism in check.)

But media types and many lawmakers want to know what new law changes and policy moves Kasich plans for coming months.

Ask the governor directly and you'll get a smile and a response of something like, "We'll tell you when everything is ready." It's frustrating on the one hand but understandable, given the scope of changes Kasich has proposed and moved over the past three years.

The governor has offered a number of hints in recent weeks about issues he hopes to cover, whether in the MBR or separate legislation.

For example, the governor wants to expose schoolchildren to more information about potential career paths, starting at younger ages. He's talked about Ohio's abysmal dropout rates, the million Ohioans without high school degrees and the need to get youngsters interested in future jobs and connected to lessons and real-life experiences to pique their interest and give them more reasons to stay in school.

Kasich also wants to further cut the state's income tax and other rates -- he says wants to get the former under 5 percent. And he wants to increase taxes on oil and gas produce via horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. It's hard to envision a mid-biennium review without a good measure of tax reform proposals.

Additionally, the governor continues to talk about the prescription painkiller/heroin epidemic affecting the state. He recently announced the start of a campaign to talk to children about the devastating effects of addiction.

There's no way lawmakers will leave Columbus for the summer without moving additional measures to combat drug abuse.

Kasich in recent months has articulated a desire to tackle poverty and develop a better way to match public benefits with residents in need -- a plan to combine health care, education, job training and other services.

The goal, he has said, is to ensure the needy have access to help while providing a springboard for those who can work to re-enter the work force.

That's a big issue to deal with in a mid-biennium budget. But if Kasich has shown one thing during his first term in office, it's that he isn't afraid to tackle those kinds of big issues, with hopes of proving naysayers wrong.

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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