Gov. John Kasich said Tuesday that he wants further cuts to the state's income tax -- even after a year that saw certain small-business taxes reduced to zero and across-the-board reductions statewide.
"We have to lower the income tax more," Kasich, a Republican presidential contender, said during year-end remarks to the Westerville Chamber of Commerce. "With income taxes high, people just kind of look the other way. The states that grow the fastest are the ones that do the best."
The two-term governor and former congressman has advocated eliminating Ohio's income tax since his first gubernatorial run in 2010.
At the same time, he supports revamping Ohio's code to tax consumption and said Tuesday he'll continue pushing in 2016 for an increase in Ohio's severance tax on big oil-and-gas drilling operations. Kasich said his administration's proposal on that issue is designed to accommodate changes in the energy market.
Kasich said Ohio's overall economic position is strong, with its state budget balanced, its rainy-day fund strong, and wages and jobs on the rise. But he said state policymakers must remain vigilant.
"You know, it's easy to fall off the path," he said. "It's easy to spend more than what you take in, it's easy to stop innovating, it's easy to avoid tax cuts."
Kasich was by joined Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, Senate President Keith Faber, House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger and members of his Cabinet at Tuesday's event. It concluded with a $1 million donation to benefit the Westerville pantry that hosted the event as well as the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies, which attempts to combat poverty and empower low-income families.
Faber and Rosenberger said they expect a review of Ohio's boards and commissions in 2016 after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that some such panels controlled by industry insiders could be violating antitrust laws.
Kasich said he's eyeing further progress on college affordability and public education reforms. He touted the value of mentoring programs in children's lives.
"I can still remember those two barbers in McKees Rocks (Pennsylvania, where he grew up). I'd be walking by their shop and they'll yell out the door, `Hey, Johnny, you're going to be something someday!"' he recalled.
"I haven't heard from them lately," he said, drawing chuckles from the crowd. "I don't know if they think I went up or down. It's kind of hard to say."
Kasich has been struggling to gain traction in the crowded GOP primary field. He has set his sights on a top-tier victory in New Hampshire as a way to break from the pack. He said Tuesday he's not discouraged by how he's positioned in the contest at the moment.