Gov. Kasich delivers State of the State - 13abc.com Toledo (OH) News, Weather and Sports

Gov. Kasich delivers State of the State

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MEDINA, Ohio (AP) - Ohio Gov. John Kasich used his annual State of the State speech Monday to pledge a new round of tax cuts, propose using casino money for a plan to boost ties between communities and schools and said state education funding to two-year colleges will be tied to course completion and graduation.
    
Kasich also pushed the importance of vocational training as an alternative route for some students, proposed giving veterans free academic credits for training and experience they received during their military service, and promised a new fight against smoking in the state.
    
In a dramatic moment, Kasich presented his annual courage awards to three women who survived a decades-long captivity in Cleveland before being rescued in May when one of the women pushed her way through a door to freedom.
    
Kasich called them "three extraordinary women who, despite having the worst in this world thrown at them_rose above it and emerged not as victims, but as victors.  They are an inspiration to us all."
    
The governor also used the speech to indirectly ask Ohio voters to support him over likely Democratic challenger Ed FitzGerald in November.
    
Citing a spiritual mission to "bring about a healing" before he dies, he likened his first term to a hike up a mountain.
    
"After you've struggled through the early obstacles you get out on more solid ground, and when you get out on that more solid ground you get the first glimpse of your goal - the summit - and you come together and it lifts your spirits, and you get that extra boost to keep going," he said.
    
As he got his speech underway, Kasich pushed a plan to drive Ohio's tax rates under 5 percent for individuals and businesses. The state's present income tax rate is 5.33 percent.
    
"When Ohioans have more money in their pockets, we're being true to the fundamental idea that made our nation great," he said to applause. "Government works for the people, not the other way around."
    
Education was a key theme of the address, which took place at the Performing Arts Center in Medina. This marks the third year in a row Kasich has taken the speech outside the Statehouse in Columbus.
    
Kasich proposed spending $10 million in casino revenue to get communities more involved with schools and parents more involved in their children's education.
    
Kasich said returning veterans ought to be able to use the top training they get from the Armed Forces when they come back to Ohio.
    
"If you can drive a truck from Kabul to Kandahar in Afghanistan, don't you think you should be able to drive a truck from Columbus to Cleveland?" he said.
    
Kasich will introduce a midterm budget bill soon that could be the vehicle for the policy priorities of the fourth and final year of his term. He has signaled the bill may provide a mechanism for further reducing state income tax rates. He said during his 2010 campaign that he supported eventually eliminating the tax.
    
"Our great purpose will continue to be helping every Ohioan have a chance to find a job that lets them fulfill their purpose," he said.
    
The $62 billion, two-year state budget Kasich signed in June cut Ohio's income tax rates by 8.5 percent in 2013, another half percent in 2014 and another 1 percent in 2015. These were Ohio's first downward revisions since 2009.
    
FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive, questioned Kasich's budget priorities.
    
"This governor points with pride to how he balanced his budgets, but he is counting on Ohioans to forget that he balanced those budgets by shifting the financial burden to the middle class and already-suffering communities," he said in a rebuttal prepared before the address.
    
The labor-backed We Are Ohio organization planned to discuss Kasich's policies at a site near the speech, arguing the governor has made it harder for working and middle-class families. The group led the successful 2011 ballot repeal of collective bargaining restrictions for public workers.
    
FitzGerald planned to watch the speech from his hometown of Lakewood.
    
Several dozen protesters gathered outside before the speech to protest Kasich policies.
    
"Everything that he has done so far has been against the working class people of this state," said Jamie Fant, of Dayton, a retired corrections officer.

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