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Ohio Gov. John Kasich voices support for redistricting reform

by MARC KOVAC CAPITAL BUREAU CHIEF Published: December 30, 2015 12:00 AM
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Columbus -- Gov. John Kasich voiced support Dec. 22 for revamping the way Ohio and other states draw their congressional district lines.

Asked about the issue during a speech in his suburban Columbus hometown, Kasich vowed to act on redistricting reform.

"I support redistricting reform dramatically," the governor said. "This will be something I'm going to do, whether I'm elected president or whether I'm here."

He added, "I think we need to eliminate gerrymandering. We've got to figure out a way to do it. We've got to be aggressive on it. We've got to have more competitive districts. That to me is what's good for the state of Ohio and what's good for the country."

The position may put him at odds with the Republican leader of the Ohio House, who was noncommittal on the issue last month.

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Asked whether the state should pursue congressional redistricting reform, following voters' approval of state legislative redistricting reform in November, Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville) said he wanted to wait and see.

"I think what we need to do is let the process work out," Rosenberger said last month. " We've just proven we can do something really effective here. Now we need to see how the process is going to work. We need to allow that process to take effect and now actually get into practice so that we know that we've got something here that continues to work well."

Kasich offered his thoughts on congressional redistricting as part of a speech in which he, members of his cabinet, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and legislative leaders recapped their accomplishments for the year.

The list included business and personal income tax cuts, policy changes aimed at promoting job growth, increased funding for primary, secondary and higher education and charter school reform.

On other issues:

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Severance Tax: Kasich said he would continue to push for an increase on tax rates for oil and gas produced via horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or fracking.

Legislative Republicans have blocked his severance tax proposals in recent years and have not committed to increasing rates.

"This is one where we always agree to disagree on," Kasich said. " What I worry about, though, is some enterprising politician or politicians who stick a severance tax on the ballot, jack it up really high and use the money for lots of things that people would vote for."

Water Bond: Kasich was not supportive of the possibility of placing a bond issue before voters as a means to pay for water system improvements around the state.

Joe Schiavoni (D-Boardman), the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and others have proposed $1 billion in bonding to cover the costs of water and sewer upgrades. The issue would have to be OK'd by voters.

Kasich said Dec. 22 that the state has already "spent a lot of money" on water quality initiatives and instituted other law and rule changes, including blocking the application of manure on frozen or saturated farm fields in northwest Ohio.

"We've spent a ton of money, and I think we're making progress," he said. "I don't see any reason to really do any more at this point. I think we are doing a lot. This problem is multi-faceted We're all working together to try to deal with this. I think we're dealing with it effectively."

Food Banks: The governor also used the Dec. 22 gathering to present $1 million in additional funding for food banks and other programs that serve the needy.

"Once again, as he has done so many times before, Gov. Kasich has risen to the challenge," Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, executive director of the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, said in a released statement afterward. "He's responded at a critical time to keep food pantry shelves stocked and food on the table for local families. His leadership and investment in hunger relief helps our member food banks respond to the growing need in their communities."

Presidential Campaign: Kasich has spent much of his time in recent months on the road, campaigning for the Republican nomination for president in New Hampshire and other states.

During his speech Dec. 22, he declined comment on his future presidential campaign plans, including whether he was discouraged by his lagging poll numbers.

"No, I'm not," he responded, adding, "By the way, come to New Hampshire and we can talk politics. This is not the time for it."

Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at mkovac@dixcom.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.

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