MARIETTA — Gov. John R. Kasich presented his State of the State address in Marietta on Wednesday, April 6. What follows is the first portion of the transcript provided for his presentation, for those readers who didn’t have a chance to view the speech:
“Tomorrow, April 7, will mark 228 years, to the day, that 48 daring adventurers first settled here in Marietta. The pioneering spirit of those early settlers remains alive in Marietta today, as do a number of their descendants.
“And one of them is with us this evening. Nancy Putnam Hollister, our first female governor.
“Those first settlers couldn’t imagine it at the time, but by opening the door to America’s western frontier, they were opening one of the most important chapters in the history of the new American nation.
“And think about this, in 1788, no one conceived that the state that began with those pioneer homesteads would go on to be the birthplace of the first man who walked on the moon. It’s a pretty incredible thing when you think about that whole movement from the first settlers to Neil Armstrong on the moon. Ohio in those early days was a frontier state, and although the frontier continued moving westward, Ohio in so many ways remained on the frontier — a pioneer in entrepreneurship, adventure, industry and innovation. From its earliest beginnings and for generations after, Ohio has been a place that people wanted to be and a model to which many other states aspired.
“I would say that sadly, over time, we lost that edge. After some tough times — and a world that seemed to be moving on without us, Ohio wasn’t always able to hold itself up as America’s model.
“Take, for example and we have to think about this — how troubled we were just five short years ago. Our budget was busted, our reserves were empty and our credit outlook was in the tank.
“We had an ineffective economic development program, high taxes and heavy handed regulation. We had lost 350,000 jobs. That’s 350,000 families that really got bad news.
“And we were $8 billion in the hole. As you know, I’ve done a bit of traveling in recent months — here in Ohio and a few other places – and in many places, I’ve actually met people who have been struggling with some of the same challenges we faced right here in our beloved state.
“I’ve been grateful to be able to give them hope by holding up what we’ve been doing here, how we’re getting back on our feet, how we’ve made progress, all of us, by pulling together.
“That’s the funny thing about hope — it’s powerful because it can be contagious, and the progress that we’re making is giving hope not only to Ohioans, but to many other people across our great country.
“One of the most important things we did to get Ohio back on track was to get our fiscal house in order, with common-sense management, sound budgeting, and conservative spending restraint. Sometimes it would have been easier to be looser, but my judgment was that we needed to remain conservative in our estimates. We went to work cutting taxes by $5 billion — more than any other state.
“We are streamlining regulations, and Mary Taylor has done a great job with the Common Sense Initiative to create a jobs friendly climate. And for those business people, particularly small business people who feel strangled by excessive regulations, you give her a call.
“The formula is working: fiscal responsibility, common sense regulations, and, of course, always looking to cut taxes.
“And, with the prosperity that comes from job creation and economic growth, we have the resources to go further, and reach out to those who might otherwise be ignored.
“We should also take into account the fact that because of the prosperity and the additional resources, we’ve been helping the mentally ill, giving hope to the drug addicted, the disabled and the working poor. And we should all be proud of that.
“When folks around the country take a look at Ohio today, I think they see a state beginning to do a lot of things better. Our budget is sound and we have $2 billion in the bank. Ohioans have created more than 417,000 new private-sector jobs and wages are growing faster than the national average right here in the Buckeye state.
“Over the past five years, we’ve improved opportunities for students in our classrooms and we are absolutely working to make college more affordable. We’re taking on the scourge of addiction, streamlining state government, and continuing to chip away at taxes and regulations in ways that can continue our economic growth well into the future.
“Together, all of us — Republicans, Democrats, the people across this state — we have actually lifted Ohio out of the ditch. We started moving again and we are picking up speed. The state of our state is getting stronger every day and the outlook is bright and hopeful here in the Buckeye State.
“But we should make no mistake, it’s not just me behind the steering wheel. We’re all in this together. And every one of us is responsible for keeping Ohio moving forward toward our goal. And that goal is to build more speed and strength and sustain it for the long term, for our children, for everyone’s children, and for the generations that follow. We want them to remember us.
“While state government is taking big steps to tear down barriers and send power back to Ohioans — that only means that the real work to push Ohioans forward is being done by Ohioans. And, frankly, it is up to Ohioans to continue putting their power that we’ve returned to them back to work to keep us moving.
“The progress we’ve made — and that we must continue to make — only happens one person at a time, one community at a time, in every county, all across our state. That’s because the spirit of Ohio, just like the spirit of America, is in our families, in our neighborhoods and in our communities.
“You see, folks, it’s where we live. It’s where we work, where we go to school or teach, or where we worship, where we look after our neighbors and care for others around us who may be lonely, people who may be discouraged, or people who are hurting.
“I want you to think about the fact that the spirit of our state is in the people that sit next to us and the people we know at home.
“I want to look at a few examples.
“In the schools, thanks to our work together, children have new opportunities to succeed, from the earliest age, we take care of them. By the end of 2017, Ohio will be helping three times more young children have access to early childhood instruction than just six years ago.
“And, we’re making sure that all early childhood education is of high quality, so children can start school ready to learn. It’s expensive, but it is a high priority for us — early childhood.
“And then there’s the Third Grade Reading Guarantee because we’re making sure children aren’t just being shuffled along, but they have the learning skills they need for the progressively more rigorous material in higher grades.
“This is great news, folks. This year, even with the tougher standards, 94 percent of third graders passed the reading guarantee. Thanks to the hard work of everyone — educators, librarians, mentors, and most importantly, families — 94 percent of third graders can now past that test.
“Schools are also developing new strategies for identifying students at risk who may drop out. We need to keep them interested in school. And if they’ve already dropped out, we have to help them find a way to their diploma. We have one of those new diploma holders with us today: Jill Hawkins from Marietta’s Washington County Career Center. Jill was an adult without a high school diploma. Jill had very narrow career options. But now she’s on a much better track because she made the choice to take ownership of her future and to get that diploma. Congratulations, Jill.
“We also have new mentoring efforts underway to motivate and inspire young Ohioans to find their purpose and to reach for the stars. Folks, we know that mentoring makes a difference because we see the results in great programs like the Cincinnati Youth Collaborative, where 95 percent of the students graduate from high school — 95 percent graduate from high school in a system where the average is about 63 percent. And 83 percent go on to college, a career, or the military.
“It was part of the inspiration for our Community Connectors program, which brings mentors dedicated to good values and career education into our schools to help shape young people’s lives. Today Community Connectors has 115 local partnerships statewide, in more than half of Ohio’s counties to help inspire kids about learning, their futures and their God given potential.
“This was a critical program we passed to create mentoring. It is now in effect in over half of Ohio’s counties. With a match of $3 for every dollar the local people put in, if you don’t have this program in your county in your schools, let us know. We want every child in the state of Ohio to be mentored and be told about how great they can be and how much they’re loved and appreciated. Can we do it, please? Let’s get every kid mentored.
“Look, right here in Marietta, where the city’s schools work with volunteers from the business, civic and religious community to mentor seventh and eighth graders, they help to guide them and explore different career paths.
“And I want to say to all of you that are here tonight. Think back to who inspired you. It might have been your principal. It might have been your coach. For me, it was a couple barbers that cut hair in McKees Rocks. When I would walk out, they’d come out the door and they’d yell, ―Johnny, someday you’re going to be something.‖ That’s 50 years ago. And I remember Panucci’s and love them for what they did. We need to do that for our children across this state.
“And another tool for helping young people explore their future is OhioMeansJobs website. With it, parents, teachers and others who mentor young people have kid friendly internet tools to learn about careers, what the salaries are, and what they have to do to get those jobs. More than 220,000 students in our K 12 system have already used this site to begin exploring careers. Direct your constituents to the OhioMeansJobs. It can change a life.
“So many people as well as employers in big cities, small towns and rural areas, tell me that one of their top personal concerns is drug abuse and addiction. Cliff and I talked about it earlier today. The attorney general and I have worked on this for quite a long time.
“And the families I talk to back that up with very personal stories about the way drugs have torn apart their own lives, their families and their neighborhoods. Oh, yes, I’ve met mothers and fathers who get up every day, wonder whether it’s going to all come tumbling down.
“Put yourself in their shoes for a moment. We have to win this war. Here in Ohio, we took the battle on in earnest five years ago. We knew then, and we are all too well aware today, that this is not an easy war to win.
“The progress can’t happen overnight. It takes a comprehensive and community centered plan of action — one based on four pillars: education, prevention, treatment, and enforcement. And that battle won’t be fought and won just by actions we take in Columbus.
“The frontlines of this battle are in every urban center, town and farm community across Ohio.
“We do have one powerful tool that is free for any community, to use. It’s called StartTalking! And if you don’t already know about it, you must learn about it. The name says it all: StartTalking! By simply having a conversation with our young people about the dangerous consequences of trying drugs, we could reduce the likelihood reduce the likelihood — of starting kids down a path to drug addiction by 50 percent just by talking to them. Many schools and communities are using the resources we have provided them with StartTalking! Schools such as Goshen in Clermont County, the City of the Chillicothe – but we can also do more. I’m not asking — I’m begging our teachers, our parents, our mentors, and all adults to take a minute to have a conversation with those that they know about the dangers of drug abuse.
“And to the men and women that are here tonight, do you want to win this battle? Do you want to stop drug addiction and drug abuse and drug deaths in your community? Go do it. Get out of your comfort zone. Grab a young man or a young woman, and you tell them about God’s purpose for their lives. And if they take these drugs and end up addicted, they will obscure or destroy that purpose. Let’s win this in our great state. But it takes all of us. This is a scourge that we must defeat.
“And keeping kids off drugs is a big part of our moral calling to help every Ohioan fulfill their chance to have a purpose and God-given ability.”
Editor’s note: Watch for the remainder of Gov. John Kasich’s address in an upcoming edition of The Register-Herald.