Roundtable with Gov. John Kasich

Ohio Gov. John Kasich was in Warren and Niles on Monday for stops at the Tribune Chronicle and to speak at the William McKinley Club dinner. Here’s some of what he had to say on a variety of topics:

The earthquakes that happened in the Mahoning Valley earlier this month.

Data is still being sought on the tremors that happened in the Youngstown area and needs to be carefully reviewed, he said.

”We’ll handle this responsibly, but we are going to move forward with this energy industry,” Kasich said. ”It’s bringing some real good things to our community, so we’re going to be environmentally conscious, but were also going to be for continuing the industry in a responsible way.”

Medicaid expansion

Kasich said his decision to bring back $14 billion to Ohio for Medicaid expansion was a piece of cake, given, in part, that in the first three years, there is not state matching dollars to secure the federal funding, and after that, the match is just 10 percent.

The split as it stands now is 38 percent state, 62 percent federal.

”We get our money back, our communities are stronger, we treat some of the most vexing problems in the state,” Kasich said. ”Why wouldn’t we do this?”

When asked why other states did take the deal, Kasich said ”politics.”

The governor ultimately turned to the state Controlling Board to secure the expansion.

Tax incentives and vetoes

There’s a bill in the Ohio House that would offer tax credits to convert vehicles to run on compressed natural gas. Its sponsor, state Rep. Sean O’Brien, D-Bazetta, said he doesn’t expect Kasich to veto or oppose the bill.

Asked if he would veto the bill, Kasich said, ”You know, threatening vetoes never goes down well, but look, every time there is a tax credit, it takes away from our ability to drop the income tax, and since 1995, $12 billion has walked out of this state to states with no income tax or much lower income tax than we have.

”I believe the income tax coming down, which we have brought down along with the tax cuts for small business, have helped take us from 48th in the country to fifth in job creation,” Kasich said. ”Now why would I want to change that formula.”

He said he would not consider including the CNG tax credit into the mid-biennium review (MBR)

MBR and the severance tax

Kasich said a natural gas and oil well severance tax is in the proposal, but will it stay there?

”I’m not a fortune teller,” he said, but if the severance tax isn’t a level that he thinks is fair to citizens, he has said before he would not hesitate to strike it down. The proposal now is 2.75 percent.

The proposal includes money set aside specifically for communities impacted by the industry, a want for the lawmakers who represent the Mahoning Valley and others in the areas where drilling is happening in the state.

Timothy Keen, director of Ohio’s Office of Budget and Management, who made the trip with Kasich, said money left over from paying for regulation, capping orphan wells and paying for the Division of Geological Survey will be split 80 percent / 20 percent – 80 percent to rebalance the tax system and get personal income tax down and 20 percent distributed to impacted communities, where there are producing wells.