Taxes, state budget, stimulus top candidates’ conversation

But he offered few specifics of how he would accomplish this if he wins the governor’s race against Democrat Ted Strickland.

“I’m not running against Ted Strickland. I’m not running against Barack Obama. I’m running for something. And the ‘for something’ is more efficient, more effective government, lower taxes, improved workers comp, better regulatory environment, eye on the legal system, trained workers. I believe it will help us to be very successful,” Kasich said.

But Strickland noted that his administration already cut income and business taxes as well as property taxes for senior homeowners, reduced business regulations and reorganized worker re-training programs and eliminated 7 percent of the state government workforce.

Strickland also expressed frustration that Kasich has offered few specifics of how he would govern.

“I can accept criticism that is specific and that I can actually consider as to whether or not it’s valid. What I find it difficult to do is to accept just generalized criticism that is comprised, quite frankly, of more rhetoric than substance,” Strickland said.

The testy exchange came Wednesday before the Dayton Daily News editorial board. The two men disagreed on nearly every topic.

State budget: Strickland, while not saying he will raise taxes, said he hasn’t taken any options off the table for dealing with a projected $8 billion funding gap in the upcoming state budget. Kasich, meanwhile, signed a pledge not to raise taxes and has proposed eliminating the state income tax over an unspecified period of time.

Stimulus: Strickland touted his success at bringing federal stimulus money to Ohio and said he would seek more of it. Kasich said stimulus money was wrongly spent on operating expenses rather than one-time infrastructure needs.

Passenger rail: Kasich said he would put the brakes on a plan to put a passenger rail system between Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus and Cleveland because the costs and ridership are unknown. Strickland said Ohio should not turn back $400 million in federal money for the rail system, particularly without taking the first step and spending $25 million for a study on costs and ridership.

K-12 education: Strickland wants to phase in a new school funding model that identifies what is needed and then pulls together the money over the next decade. Kasich said he would scrap that system but did not offer an alternative plan.

Renewable energy: Strickland said his new energy law is helping bring wind and solar projects and jobs to Ohio. But Kasich criticized renewable energy mandates, saying “We better be careful we’re not running up people’s utility bills with a plan that is not achievable.”

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