John Kasich was diplomatic when he spoke about expanding Medicaid, but the passion in his words made it clear it is an issue he’s willing to do some arm-twisting on, and rightfully so.
Kasich spent the first five minutes of Tuesday night’s State of the State address reminding legislators about the progress Ohio made during his first two years in office, noting the state has gone from double-digit unemployment rates to being one of the top five job-creating states in the nation.
The next hour was spent convincing lawmakers to keep their foot on the gas pedal, but also to make sure they didn’t run anyone over.
Hence his words on Medicaid.
“I will not accept the fact the most vulnerable in the state should be ignored,” Kasich said. “Medicaid is our chance to rebuild the safety net.”
That lines him up for a fight within his own party. Many Republicans oppose taking advantage of a federally funded expansion. They argue opposition to President Barack Obama’s health-care law trumps Kasich’s stance, adding that providing health coverage to an additional 275,000 poor will increase the national debt.
The expansion, however, is widely supported by hospitals statewide, including Lima Memorial Health System and St. Rita’s Medical Center, as well Ohio businesses and advocates for the poor and mentally ill.
Kasich told the legislators, “I respect the decisions you make on this, I just ask that you keep an open mind. Our economy is stronger, our credit is up, we’re doing the right things …. The Lord would not want us to ignore those who are now vulnerable. These are people who played by the rules. They’re hurting.”
Most of Kasich’s third State of the State address was used to convince Ohioans and state lawmakers that his budget plan is the right mix of smart money management, efficient government service delivery and business-friendly tax policy.
He had many memorable lines:
• His vision: “The only thing that can stop us is fear of change and fear of big ideas. Big ideas put a spring in your step.”
• Higher education: “We need to stress the graduation rate over the enrollment rate.”
• Partisanship: “Too many people are losing faith in government. We have to stop the name-calling. The public is sick of it.”
• Open mind: “When we debate views, we cannot loose sight of vision.”