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Protesters fill the rotunda at the Ohio Statehouse following Ohio Gov. John Kasich’s State of the State address yesterday in Columbus, Ohio. (Jay LaPrete | THE ASSOCIATED PRESS)

State of the State: 'Big changes' on horizon

COLUMBUS — Amid pro-labor protests yesterday, Gov. John Kasich said in his first State of the State address that big changes are ahead for Ohio and that lawmakers should not be scared off by the conflict that will arise from shaking things up.

Touting the advantages of the state’s many cities, the new Republican governor said he is willing to risk criticism in order to stop Ohio from hemorrhaging any more residents and jobs to other states. Seeing Ohio lose two congressional seats because of population loss was a punishing blow, the former congressman said.

“It’s like taking a shotgun and blowing a piece of your body out,” he said.

The speech, delivered from notes and without a teleprompter, was light on details — which Kasich said will be released next Tuesday when he unveils his proposed state spending blueprint for the next two years.

Athens County Republican Party Chairman Pete Couladis said he agrees with Kasich’s plan to balance Ohio’s budget.

“There are resources in Ohio, and we need to send a positive message to keep businesses in Ohio and to encourage businesses to relocate here,” Couladis said.

Couladis also said he agrees with Kasich’s plan to make changes in the public sector, specifically Medicaid, state prisons and the education system. He said the public sector budget needs to be balanced and the state should not always rely on higher taxes to fix the deficit.

Rep. Debbie Phillips (D-92nd), who represents Athens, said she was skeptical of the plan Kasich put forward in his speech.

“The income tax break will only benefit the upper-class and puts the blame on the working middle-class,” Phillips said.

Phillips also said that reducing state funds for higher education will limit the number of students who can pursue a college degree.

Kasich said Ohio residents will get the income tax cut they were expecting two years ago, which was frozen to balance the state’s last budget. His budget will also include agency cuts and program consolidations, he said, though he provided few specifics. Ohio’s two-year budget now stands at $50.5 billion and the state faces a historic $8 billion budget hole.

“I’m asking you all to keep an open mind about reform because we can’t keep doing the same thing in this state and avoiding the decisions that need to be made — that have been put off for

political reasons, frankly,” he said.

— Associated Press writers Andrew Welsh-Huggins, Ann Sanner and Kantele Franko contributed to this report.


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