Thomas Bradley / Lantern Photographer
Gov. John Kasich walked through a standing ovation in the Statehouse as he prepared to give his State of the State address. Just beyond a police-lined corridor, thousands of people protesting Senate Bill 5 booed.
SB 5 overhauls collective bargaining rights of Ohio public workers.
“This bill affects all working families in the state,” said Mike Carroll, a member of United Steel Workers and a resident of Mansfield, Ohio. “It drives down wages.”
Carroll said the jobs Kasich claims SB 5 will create will be minimum wage jobs.
“You can’t support a family on minimum wage,” Carroll said.
In a speech that lasted more than an hour, Kasich only briefly addressed the protesters who sat less than 100 yards away in the State House chanting, “Kill the bill” as he spoke. Instead, Kasich focused on correcting joblessness, the budget and a “significant reform agenda” for education.
“One-third of Ohio college graduates are leaving this state within three years of graduating,” Kasich said. “Our best and our brightest … have decided that they need to go somewhere else to realize their hopes and dreams. That’s a terrible situation.”
Kasich said the state government would work to correct the drain of college students by connecting graduates with job opportunities.
“We have not been able to connect … our universities to real stuff,” Kasich said. “You need to think about what we do with our … universities to work in conjunction with businesses so the students and workers can be trained for the jobs that need to be filled today and the jobs that will be there tomorrow.”
Though Kasich did not specifically address his budget for higher education, which is scheduled to be released March 15, the governor promised cuts to the overall budget and a fundamental “restructuring” to fill the $8 billion hole.
“Oh, there will be cuts, but that’s not the way to get there,” Kasich said. “Restructuring means providing a better product at a lower cost to the taxpayer.”
Jim Petro, designate chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents pending Senate advice and approval, said higher education would continue to be an important part of economic growth in the state.
“Higher education is not being changed in a fashion that people who are part of higher education will feel is dramatic or is jeopardizing the importance of higher education,” Petro said.
The reform Kasich is speaking of, Petro said, refers to an effort to properly train students in technical schools and community colleges for employment.
Matthew Caffrey, president of College Democrats at Ohio State and a fourth-year in political science, said proof of how concerned Kasich is with higher education will be in the budget.
“The governor can say anything he wants about his priorities and how much he loves our institutions of higher learning, but when all of his policies and all of his budget priorities go directly against that, it’s very hard to take him seriously,” Caffrey said.
Caffrey said the coming budget could significantly cut funds from the higher education, leading to a possible increase of as much as 20 percent in tuition.
Meagan Cyrus, president of OSU College Republicans and a third-year in political science, said potential cuts to the higher education budget would likely be necessary to balance the overall budget and promote job growth.
“I definitely trust his judgment and I’m really excited to see what he has in store,” Cyrus said. “The way things are now, it’s definitely not conducive to business and people trying to find jobs. It’s kind of a give and take.”
Though there is disagreement across party lines about the agenda the governor has laid out, it was amid a shower of boos following his mention of SB 5, that Kasich made his opinion on bipartisanship clear.
“I appreciate the passion of people that don’t agree with us,” he said. “People who feel strongly, I respect them, but they need to also respect those that don’t always agree with them.”
Kasich carried his spirit of bipartisanship through to his final remark.
“We are not Republicans, we are not Democrats, we are not liberals and we are not conservatives. We are Ohioans, and together we will climb the mountain and make Ohio great.”
Thomas Bradley contributed to this story.