Former U.S. Rep. John Kasich is proud of the 10-year congressional plan that resulted in a balanced federal budget, an effort the Republican from Cincinnati led as chairman of the House Budget Committee. It was 1997, the president was Democrat Bill Clinton, and in balancing the federal budget, Kasich noted, he “got a tremendous number of people who didn’t want to make changes go through the same door.”

Speaking last week to The City Club, Kasich, who announced in June that he is a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor – and likely to run against Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland in 2010 – did not propose ways to fix the state’s current budget crisis. On Tuesday, unable to agree by the June 30 deadline on a new two-year budget, state lawmakers were expected to pass a temporary, 7-day extension at 70% of current spending.

While Kasich didn’t address Ohio’s current budget impasse, he noted the trillions in surpluses in federal government coffers when he left the House in 2000. He chastised Republicans, then in control of Congress, for failing to use the money to shore up the dwindling funds of Social Security and Medicare.

He promised as governor to pay more attention to Cleveland, which he likened to his hometown of Pittsburgh, where he grew up the son of a mailman. Later, he went on to graduate from The Ohio State University. After leaving Congress in 2000, he became a managing director at Lehman Brothers, the investment-banking firm that filed for bankruptcy last year.

To improve the economy in Cleveland and Ohio, Kasich wants to gradually phase out the state income tax and eliminate the inheritance tax. Both taxes punish success and drive out small business and the rich, serial entrepreneurs whose energy, innovative ideas, and charitable giving Ohio needs, Kasich said.

Asked how he would replace the revenue the income tax provides, Kasich replied, “If we start to make Ohio more desirable, companies will locate here; we get more jobs, and we have more revenue.”

The state has “the 7th highest tax burden in the country” and cumbersome state regulations, both which discourage business growth here, he said. Corporate executives ranked Ohio 45th among states desirable to do business in, he noted.

Fixing failing public education, which also threatens the country’s economic strength, is essential, he said. To that end, Kasich favors charter schools and tuition vouchers to give parents choice in educating their children. Paying good teachers more and holding all teachers accountable by testing them are other measures he supports.

Cuyahoga County is “broken,” said Kasich, who supports reforming the current three-commissioner system. The status quo is standing in the way of needed projects like the medical mart, he said.

On social issues, Kasich said he supports teaching both evolution and “creation science” in Ohio biology classes. While he’s concerned about global warming, he urged caution. The cap and trade bill, which seeks to lower carbon emissions, could be the “death knell” for the Midwest economy, he said.

If Ohio can’t “innovate and change the model, work cooperatively all over the state, (and) leverage our assets,” Kasich said, “we’ll continue to drift in a death spiral.”

Originally published on June 30, 2009

mkarfeld@cjn.org

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