LIMA, Ohio (AP) — Gov. John Kasich said Tuesday during his third State of the State speech that Ohio has seen wholesale improvements since he took office but now is not the time to "rest on our laurels."
Making the case for his latest round of sweeping policy proposals in the upcoming budget, Kasich told lawmakers, invited guests and a television audience that big changes he's made to government so far are showing results.
"We must not fear big ideas. We must embrace them," the Republican governor said in a speech before about 1,700 at Lima's Civic Center. "We can debate them, but at the end of the day, big ideas will renew us, they will restore us."
Kasich is pushing for support of several key proposals in his $63.2 billion, two-year budget — including his plan to overhaul the state's tax code and school funding, plus expand Medicaid under the federal health law.
State lawmakers of both parties expressed reservations after the speech about aspects of Kasich's plan — Republicans primarily over expansion of Medicaid, a state-federal health insurance program, and Democrats about the school-funding proposal, which they say doesn't do enough for poor districts.
State Sen. Nina Turner, a Cleveland Democrat, called the governor's funding plan "a slap in the face" for her city and its students.
"What are the students and the children — the 1.8 million of them — what are they guaranteed in this budget in the state of Ohio?" Turner asked. "As far as I am concerned, not enough. And we need to step up to the plate."
Senate President Keith Faber also expressed concerns with the governor's funding formula, but he said he agreed with the concept of the plan.
"We just need to make sure that there's not unintended consequences that frankly cause problems for districts that are not wealthy" and are doing a good job, said Faber, a Celina Republican.
Kasich cited JobsOhio, the private nonprofit job creation agency that's faced a persistent constitutional challenge, as a vital economic driver that's diversifying Ohio's economy from just one or two sectors to include bio-health, auto manufacturing, financial services, aerospace, information technology, agri-business and energy.
The administration has also seen the state workforce drop to its lowest levels in 30 years, he said, and reduced redundancy and revitalized worn-out programs using private-sector management techniques.
All that, the governor argued, has gotten the state noticed across the world — including at the recent Global Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
But Kasich said now isn't the time to let up.