Gov. Kasich delivers final Ohio State of the State address

Ohio Gov. John Kasich speaks during the Ohio State of the State address in the Fritsche Theater at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio, Tuesday. (AP Photo)

MARIETTA — As the sunset on Gov. John Kasich’s second term draws near, Tuesday’s State of the State focused on social values that he alluded to influencing state accomplishments under his tenure.

“I believe the State of Ohio is stronger than it has been in a generation,” he concluded. “Ohio is back and Ohio is strong again.”

Kasich touched on gun control, health care, mental health, the opioid crisis, prison reform, developmental disabilities, human trafficking, job creation and workforce development Tuesday but local reaction across party lines called his address more of a sermon than a report on the state of Ohio’s issues.

“He’s laying the groundwork to run as president in 2020,” said local Tea Party leader Glenn Newman, of Marietta.

Willa O’Neill, Washington County Democratic Party chairwoman, said she thought the speech was odd and though she didn’t disagree with his remarks, said his words “don’t match the policies.”

“His words were in some instances very inspirational calling us to be our better selves,” she said, noting Kasich’s first 30 minutes of the 54-minute speech devoted to character attributes of love, compassion, faith, reason, humility and forgiveness. “But they don’t match with the policies that have crippled public education, done nothing to combat infant mortality, or taken away funding to local governments which have been gut to the point where our cities and townships are struggling to come up with the funds for basic services. Local government is bearing the brunt of these policies.”

Her counterpart, Mike Webber, Washington County Republican Party chair, had similar views.

“It’s the social gospel that was on full display tonight,” said Webber. “But he blames is overspending over his term on compassion as he has balanced the budget on the backs on townships, taking away money from the schools and foster care.”

Both Webber and O’Neill disagreed with Kasich’s claim that the opioid crisis has “leveled off” due to a “30 percent drop in the number of prescriptions written for opiates in the state.”

“All that does is drive people to alternative means of filling that habit, and driving their children into foster care,” said Webber.

Webber also noted that reducing prison populations, as mentioned by Kasich, was not the solution to rehabilitation and correction of breaking the law.

“All that’s doing is shifting the burden of cost to the county when the (fifth-degree felonies) are imprisoned at the county jail instead of the state level,” said Webber.

Newman was also concerned about how public education and school choice were avoided in the address and called the multiple mentions of recent shootings not only in Ohio over the last year but nationally, an emotional ploy to gain votes in a presidential run.

“I don’t know how much his speech had to do with the state of Ohio,” concluded O’Neill. “But he hasn’t spent much time in Ohio in the last year and a half. He’s more focused on making a name for himself on the national stage than paying attention to what’s going on at home.”

Kasich has served as governor of Ohio since 2011 and will conclude his second term at the close of this year.