NEW ATHENS - The Harrison County Republican Party held its annual Lincoln Day Dinner Wednesday at the Franklin Museum in New Athens, and keynote speaker Gov. John R. Kasich delivered a 45-minute speech covering his budget plans, the economy, education, transportation, taxes, drug abuse and the expansion of Medicaid.
The governor gave some background on his political career as he told the crowd of more than 300 guests form Harrison and surrounding counties that as senior Republican on the budget committee under Ronald Reagan he had been one of the architects of the balanced budget in 1997.
"I spent 10 years of my life trying to get the federal budget balanced because I tell you it is really truly simple for me. It's common sense. I look at government like I look at family; so I said it did not make any sense to pass on the bills to the next generation."
DINNER SPEAKER — Gov. John Kasich discussed budget plans, education and other issues during the Harrison County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner held Wednesday at the Franklin Museum in New Athens. - Mike Palmer
"My first budget, the vote was 405 to 30, I got the 30," the governor quipped. "We did get it passed and ended up paying down the most amount of the publicly held debt in modern times. We also cut taxes at that point."
Kasich explained politics is all consuming. He told his two 13-year-old daughters when he decided to run for governor, "Our purpose is to try to lift people in the state of Ohio, try and improve our families and never neglect our people who live in the shadows our poor, mentally ill and the addicted."
Once elected, Kasich explained he had a tough assignment. "I find myself $8 billion in the hole with a rainy day fund that literally had 89 cents in it. A lot of people would have said we needed to raise taxes to solve this problem. If you have a restaurant and you don't have any customers, you don't fix your problem by raising your prices. You have to figure out how to reduce your prices and serve a better product," the governor continued above the applause.
"Ohio had lost over 400,000 jobs, 400,00 families, losing population, losing jobs, losing young people. You lose your young people, you lose your seed corn; you lose your seed corn, you lose your future," Kasich continued. "We needed to lower taxes, and we needed to make our state more competitive. It is necessary to grow an economy and to create jobs by reducing that income tax."
"We eliminated the $8 billion deficit and at the end of this year we will have gone from 89 cents in our rainy day fund to approximately $2 billion."
Kasich admitted the programs have been considered controversial. "I am not in this business to play politics, I am the CEO of Ohio with 11 and one half million people and that is a big responsibility.
"The minute we stop innovating and changing, we have poverty and unemployment, loss of businesses." The crowd listened intently as he explained the proposed shale energy policy.
"We passed an energy reform package. I know how important this is to you, let me be clear about this," Kasich said. "There are many states that find themselves in trouble on hydraulic fracturing because they did not get ahead of the curve and they did not communicate this simple message. It is very possible to put in place a system that protects the environment but at the same time puts us in a position where we can generate jobs. One is not mutually exclusive from the other one."
The governor recommended regulation on high pressure pipelines, preventing damage to the environment at the well head and local ground water supplies, "We need to know what is in the fracking fluids.
"We do not need Washington to come in here and tell us how to run this business," Kasich said he had relayed this statement to President Obama. "Because the minute they get in the middle of this, they could threaten the ability to be successful here."
"We need to reign our workers in our state. The one thing we want to make sure of is that when these big boys come from out of state that they are hiring our people. I don't want excuses that our people are not trained," Kasich explained.
The governor also proposes modification on the severance tax for gas and oil, increasing the fee to 4 percent on a barrel of oil.
"When you look at McKees Rocks, Pa., (an industrial town near Pittsburgh) where I come from, half of the buildings are boarded up over there. I know what it is like when people lose a job."
"We need to be smart about this, lower our taxes and train our workers," Kasich warned. "We also know from our past experience that you do not put all of your eggs in one basket.
"We have two companies that are investing 2.7 billion dollars in this area," the governor noted. "It's not just about what they pull up, it's about what happens when they move it when it gets to the end stream. What about plastics? What about chemicals? So that when they are done taking what we still have, we will still survive.
"Not only the country but the world is waking up to what we are doing. We have 11 and one half million people, we are big time. Did you ever notice we are front and center in elections? It's because we matter and we count," Kasich noted. "For too many years we mattered in an election but we did not matter in the economy and now that is changing."
"We have great cities, great suburbs. ... We have great people like you. You are the heartbeat, the glue, the values, the people that carry the values, the people who know how to love their neighbor as they love themselves," Kasich concluded. "When I come out into the rural areas, I can not get enough, because it is great."