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Ohio Governor Kasich surprises with his State of the State Address

Gov. John Kasich gave his fourth State of the State speech last night in Medina, and as perhaps fitting for an election year, it was unlike any other he’s delivered.

At a little over an hour, it was John Kasich’s shortest State of the State. And it was certainly the most surprising – for one reason. And it wasn’t political. “I’m humbled to present the 2014 Ohio Courage Medals to Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight – three extraordinary women" said Kasich.

It was the first time the three Cleveland women held captive for more than a decade by Ariel Castro were seen together publicly since their escape.

Much of Kasich’s speech touched on inspirational themes of lifting up, looking forward and surviving tough times. “We are not hopeless – we are hopeful. We are not wandering – we have direction," he said.

Kasich touted his tax cuts, and said he wants the top income tax rate to be below 5 percent – which he said would be a way to grow jobs while keeping the state’s fiscal house in order. He announced a few other new proposals – one called Community Connections, to bring together schools, parents, community and faith based groups, and business leaders with students to halt the dropout rate, now at 24,000 students each year.

“We’re going to ask you, the legislature, to take the $10 million from casino receipts, and we’re going to ask you to create a program that will give these communities a three dollar match for every dollar they put in to build these mentoring efforts.”

Kasich also said he wanted to put $35 million in new tobacco settlement money into programs to help tobacco users quit, and he wants more opportunities for high school students to take college courses for credit. And he ended his State of the State as he has other big speeches – by blasting partisan efforts to criticize him. And he also seemed to take on the suspicions that he wants to run for president.

“I’m the governor of all of Ohio, and it’s my duty to serve everyone. This is my life and this is my mission," said Kasich.

But as expected, Democratic lawmakers who heard the speech were not impressed.

Just minutes after hearing the address, top Democratic leaders in the General Assembly admitted that there were some points they liked hearing, such as encouraging minority businesses and fighting drug addiction. But House Democratic Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard of Columbus says the governor’s speech lacked details.  “I’m hearing more about trickle down economics – hearing a lot about tax cuts but not any that are directed toward the middle class – I heard that he recognized that was a need but if we’re going to continue to make those tax cuts for the top 1%—I’m not sure how we’re going to create that disposable income that’s going to stimulate the economy and cause businesses to create more jobs,” said Heard.

Democratic Senator Charleta Tavares, also of Columbus, says it’s not possible for the governor to cut the income tax and still support all of the projects he laid out. “Unless you’re going to raise them in another area or force local governments to raise taxes as has been happening over the last three years. We’ve had local communities having to raise income taxes – Columbus raised income taxes – surrounding communities around Columbus have raised income taxes.”

But Republican Representative Lynn Wachtmann from Napoleon says Ohio needs this tax cut. “The governor’s right on target. When you raise taxes you hurt people – when you lower taxes you lift people up – allowing them to keep more of their own money – take their own initiative – make their own investments – instead of government determining what their future is.”

Following the address – the governor’s office said it's keeping some of the details under wraps until they release their budget update called the mid-biennium review. That includes how they plan to fund the income tax cut and early education efforts.