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Perspective: Governor Kasich 'unplugged'

6:32 PM, Mar 28, 2013   |    comments
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Governor John Kasich can be a personable and engaging fellow.

On Monday, he seemed to enjoy the give-and-take of a wide-ranging interview with yours truly, letting it go well beyond our allotted 15 minutes.

Kasich was in Medina, speaking at a belated Lincoln Day Dinner to Republicans. The timing after St. Patrick's shamrocks and before Easter was presumably done to fit his schedule.

If Kasich is upset that much of his proposed ambitious budget seems at risk, he doesn't show it.

Republicans are opposing various cornerstone elements. It's like a house of cards, where if one gets removed, more will topple.

"You've got to be a leader. Sometimes a leader takes hits. Sometimes he gets ahead," he said.

Kasich is taking lots of hits from conservatives who are against expanding Medicaid, applying sales tax to more service businesses, and making gas and oil drillers kick in more revenue to the state.

The Chamber of Commerce -- rock-solid Republicans -- is battling him on these issues.

"Sometimes you don't get what you want, but you get what you need. Two smart guys said that," said the governor, showing his musical chops and appreciation for the Rolling Stones and maybe suggesting a campaign rally song.

Kasich prefers to focus on his budget successes. They include a new plan to fund higher education focusing on performance not enrollment.

And there's his transportation plan, getting revenue for other projects from bonds backed by the Ohio Turnpike.

He wisely walked away from a previous idea to lease the Ohio Turnpike, turning a hot-button issue into a plus.

Kasich has a couple months to work on lawmakers to salvage or work out compromises on as many of his big ideas as he can.

He vows there will be an income tax cut, though perhaps not the 20 percent he wanted.

He is steering clear of controversies, old and new.

He wanted no part of revisiting SB 5, in the wake of the Strongsville teachers strike.

"The people have spoken," he said.

And though he is always concerned about keeping Ohio competitive with neighboring states, he passed on discussing right-to-work laws, even though Michigan and Indiana now have them.

He said his agenda is too full to even consider that.

He is standing firm on his opposition to gay marriage, telling me he has talked with Rob Portman and offered support, but can see no way he'd change his traditional marriage views.

Kasich's reelection strategy is obviously to talk up job creation, 135,000 new ones in Ohio on his watch.

And he will continue to promote "big ideas,", saying Ohio needs to be like successful companies that are not afraid to redefine themselves and take chances.

So if the economy keeps improving, and Kasich can avoid his tendency to blurt statements that hit hot buttons, Ed FitzGerald will face a steep hill to climb.

Governor, thanks for the time. I look forward to our next encounter. 

WKYC-TV

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