Very few surprises in Kasich speech

There were few surprises when Gov. John Kasich delivered his annual State of the State address Tuesday.

Kasich had outlined many of his plans for Ohio for the coming year in a series of announcements made during the last few weeks. Those policy proposals are a part of a biannual budget of $63.2 billion and include an expansion of Medicaid, a change in the way the state’s schools are funded and a big change in the state’s tax structure.

Kasich reminded Ohioans that they should not be afraid of big ideas, pointing to his success in helping to lift the state’s economy from the moribund state he found it in when he took office after the 2010 election.

The governor’s plans include reducing the state’s sales, income and small business taxes while implementing and raising sales taxes on many services.

It’s too early to say whether the plan will fly, but Kasich is sure it will help small business owners to put more money back into their operations and hire more workers, who in turn will buy more goods and services, strengthening the state’s economy.

We do have questions, however, about the governor’s call for an increase to the oil and gas severance tax on high volume oil and gas drillers. Some lawmakers, including state Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, believe that a larger portion of money generated through the severance tax should be returned to the areas where oil and gas production is happening instead of being spread among all of the state’s 88 counties. They make a good argument, one which deserves to be debated in Columbus.

It’s a fine line to walk, however, because the state is seeing big benefits from the oil and gas industry. According to Ohio Petroleum Council, more than 38,380 jobs in Ohio were directly attributed to oil and natural gas activity in 2012. That number is expected to reach 143,595 by 2020 and 266,624 by 2035.

There also are questions about the governor’s new school funding formula, which calls for $1.2 billion in additional money to go to K-12 education. Many districts in our area, though, will not see an increase in state funding under the plan, which is reason for concern.

Kasich once again took his annual speech on the road, this time delivering it in the Lima Civic Center. The location was chosen, in part, to help show his vision for the state is working – the city’s unemployment is down and 3,200 new private-sector jobs have been created.

Last year, remember, Kasich delivered his speech in the Steubenville High School auditorium as a way to showcase the city’s top-ranked school system.

All in all, Kasich has the state moving in the right direction, and we agree with him when he says that now is not the time to rest on our laurels.