COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Monday touted the state's improved employment picture since he took office a year ago, and said he will push for tougher regulations on oil and natural gas drilling in his second year that begins next month.
The Republican addressed members of the media in a year-end review, noting other accomplishments this year that he said included a revised state sentencing law and a crackdown on illegal prescriptions that closed 12 pain clinics.
Kasich said the state is running ahead in revenues and attributed economic boosts to balancing a budget without raising taxes in the face of an $8 billion shortfall.
Ohio's two-year budget was approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature in June. The nearly $56 billion spending plan privatizes five state prisons, overhauls Medicaid, eliminates Ohio's estate tax in 2013, bans most abortions in public hospitals and ties teachers' pay more closely to student achievement.
While the massive 3,262-page bill made its way through the Legislature, Kasich said, he kept his campaign pledge not to raise taxes while coming up with a balanced budget. The budget measure kept in place an $800 million cut in the personal income tax that went into effect in January.
Kasich also applauded the state's new JobsOhio semi-private, nonprofit corporation, saying it has led to the creation of about 21,000 jobs and the retention of about 63,000. Joblessness in Ohio was 8.5 percent in November, the lowest level since December 2008.
JobsOhio is charged with the economic development role formerly played by the Ohio Department of Development. Kasich maintains a nonprofit that's led by a board of appointed business and education leaders can move more quickly to offer incentives and strike deals that keep jobs and attract new work to the state.
In 2012, Kasich said he plans to address issues related to oil and natural gas drilling in Ohio.
"We will have tough and clear regulations," he said, adding that the public will know what kind of chemicals are being used in the "fracking" process that uses water and chemicals to break up underground shale formations to release natural resources. Many environmental groups and residents who live near wells have criticized the process.
Oil and natural gas development has the chance to bring an "economic resurgence" to the state but not at the cost of damaging the environment, Kasic said.
In addition, he said he will focus on reducing the current 41 percent of high school graduates who need remediation before entering college.
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