MEDINA — Democratic lawmakers and others dissatisfied Ohioans voiced their opposition before and after Gov. John Kasich’s State of the State speech Monday.
Ed FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County executive, and likely Democratic challenger to Kasich in November, questioned the Republican governor’s budget priorities.
He said Kasich was “counting on Ohioans to forget that he balanced those budgets by shifting the financial burden to the middle class and already-suffering communities.”
Democrats, who hold minorities in the state Legislature, said the governor’s actions do not match his words. They said while Kasich claimed to not raise taxes, many Ohioans are feeling the bump in the state sales tax and the removal of the homestead exemption and property tax rollbacks.
“Tonight, Ohioans deserved an address that outlined a new pathway forward and a break from the same failed policies that have left 416,000 Ohioans without work, 1 in 6 Ohio households hungry, and left us 45th in the nation in job growth in 2013,” said state Rep. Dan Ramos, D-Lorain. “Instead, Ohioans witnessed our governor double down on the same failed economic policies that have repeatedly put the interests of those most fortunate ahead of our communities, ahead of our schools and ahead of so many Ohioans who are ready and willing to get back to work.”
Ohio is one of four states in the country whose economy is not expanding, according to the Federal Reserve.
“We are trying to work with this governor, but his policies are extreme and out of touch with middle class families,” said state Rep. Matt Lundy, D-Elyria. “Our economic recovery has come to a grinding halt as the governor’s tax policies that favor the very rich have taken effect. Middle-class Ohioans cannot afford to carry the burden of more tax breaks for the wealthy.”
Kasich’s educational policies also were targets of Democratic criticism.
“Our governor has continuously put private charter schools ahead of the needs of our children in public schools,” Lundy said. “Deregulating our schools is a formula for failure that will only yield fewer standards and less accountability.”
About 200 teachers and supporters protested at the main entrance of Medina High School against what they said were more than $500 million in education cuts since Kasich took office in 2011.
John Leatherman, president of the Medina City Teachers Association, was one of the speakers rallying protesters.
“When will Gov. Kasich realize that continued cuts like this will send Ohio down a very dark path?” Leatherman asked the crowd.
Leatherman said Kasich has instead favored charter schools, “but charter schools don’t have to jump through the same hoops.”
Leatherman said teachers and counselors have lost jobs as a result of the cuts and the future is looking bleak.
“Gov. Kasich’s policies are punishing our children,” Leatherman said. “These devastating cuts are across the board for the whole state.”
Outside the adjacent Medina Performing Arts Center, several dozen protesters waved signs attacking Kasich’s support of natural gas extraction through the drilling process of hydraulic fracturing, also known as “fracking.”
Fracking opponents demanded clean air and water, resources they say the natural gas drilling industry in Ohio is threatening.
They say Kasich is to blame.
“He’s in bed with the oil and gas industry,” said Frack-Free Ohio leader Bill Baker.
Baker cited as evidence a document recently uncovered by the Sierra Club. He said the document contains an enemies list that includes fracking opposition groups and a friends list that include Halliburton and the Ohio Oil and Gas Association.
It also includes plans for agencies within the administration to “marginalize” opponents by teaming up with those allies.
Baker said anti-fracking groups have alliances with other agencies to get their message out, and he said it’s starting become louder and clearer.
“The movement is growing, and we’re doing better,” he said. “We at first had the great PR campaign of the industry to contend with, but we’re working with grassroots groups and other organizations to put out the right message.”
Baker said their greatest concern is the waste that comes into Ohio for disposal into injection wells. He said information about the dangers of injection wells is starting to bring around homeowners who might before have been sold on drilling because of high-paying signing bonuses and promised royalty payments.
Baker said he wants the governor to keep other states’ fracking waste out of Ohio.
“If we can stop or slow down injection wells here in Ohio, we can help other communities slow down fracking,” he said.
Other signs protested restrictions on abortion enacted by the Republican majority in the state’s General Assembly.
Chronicle News Editor Benjamin Nagy contributed to this story.
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