Gov. John Kasich takes on drug addiction, political infighting in address

Ohio Gov. John Kasich delivers his State of the State address at the Sandusky State Theatre, Tuesday, April 4, 2017, in Sandusky, Ohio. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Caption
Ohio Gov. John Kasich delivers his State of the State address at the Sandusky State Theatre, Tuesday, April 4, 2017, in Sandusky, Ohio. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)

Credit: Ron Schwane

Credit: Ron Schwane

Ohio Gov. John Kasich used his 2017 State of the State address to call Ohioans on opposite sides of the partisan divide to find common ground on issues such as infant mortality, drug addiction and hunger.

“If we begin to work together, we will be surprised at how much progress we can make,” he said in a speech then went for 72 minutes. “We’ll begin to start the dialogue that can pull our country back together again….Working on these issues together in our community can bring us together. We need it.”

The governor took on the role of futurist, predicting that cutting-edge technologies will soon dramatically change education, jobs and lifestyles.

“The bottom line for almost everybody in almost every profession is this… if we aren’t prepared for change people are going to find ourselves out of a job,” Kasich said. “Change is coming whether we like it or not, so let’s accept the change but reject the fear and the hesitancy and the unwillingness to prepare. We must get ahead of the coming tsunami. We must act, not react.”

Kasich delivered his address at the Sandusky State Theatre.

Kasich announced he’ll create a task force of business and education leaders to “look into the future and try to anticipate what we might lose and what we might gain.”

He predicted that autonomous cars will dominate the roadways within a decade, drones will deliver groceries to customers’ doorsteps, and big data mining will solve problems in health care and agriculture. “Anybody ever seen the Jetsons?” he said.

He also warned that universities need to control costs and offer more courses and degrees online.

The governor covered familiar territory in the speech: the creation of JobsOhio, a non-profit economic development arm for the state; income tax cuts; and new business developments such as Fuyao in the Dayton region.

And he reviewed actions his administration has taken to fight the opiate addiction crisis that is killing an average of eight Ohioans everyday.

Kasich announced that he will ask the Third Frontier Commission to earmark $20 million for new scientific research into breakthroughs on addiction.

Kasich urged lawmakers to hold a line on state spending and adopt his tax reform plans that include a cut to the income tax, a hike in taxes on tobacco and sales, and a streamlining of how municipal taxes are administered.

State Rep. Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, praised Kasich as a steady, guiding force behind Ohio’s successes and he called Kasich’s call for unity “poignant.”

“We have to roll up our sleeves and solve this drug epidemic, and it has to be comprehensive solution that includes doctors, counselors, researchers, local, state and federal partners, and everyone in our local communities to beat this drug addiction and continue Ohio’s progress,” Perales said.

State Sen. Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, agreed, calling it “one of the most inspirational speeches I have heard from the governor.”

But House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn, D-Dayton, said after six years of Republican cuts and tax shifts, Ohio is still struggling.

“Many people in the state of Ohio are worried about their situation. They don’t feel like this economy has been working for them,” Strahorn said. He noted that Ohio average household income and job growth lags the nation, Ohio health rankings have declined and 33 cities are in fiscal distress.

“The real statistics show we are not progressing as a state,” Strahorn said.

Kasich continued his tradition of handing out Governor’s Courage Awards. This year, honorees included Dayton RTA bus driver Damone Hudson, who earlier this year pulled over his bus to talk a suicidal woman off the ledge of a bridge.

A security camera on the bus caught Hudson's "quiet act of compassion" and it went viral, Kasich said. (National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800-273-TALK(8255) or visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org)

Related: Video of RTA driver helping suicidal woman

So, why did Kasich pick Sandusky for the 2017 address? Kasich said in prepared remarks that he vacationed here as a child and he noted that the state has invested heavily in cleaning up Lake Erie, which has suffered from algae blooms in its western basin.

While the 2016 algae bloom was less severe than in years past — the 2014 bloom led to water shut off in Toledo for days — scientists say the problem isn’t solved. The blooms are caused by fertilizer, sewage and manure run off into the Lake Erie watershed.

Kasich did not give any hints to what the future might hold for him —or if he’s considering another run for president.

“I’m not running for anything,” Kasich said at one point during the address.

Kasich does have a new book coming out this month. “Two Paths: America Divided or United.” is scheduled to be release in hardcover on April 25.

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