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In Ohio, a governor in the economic spotlight

October 14, 2014

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Ohio Gov. John Kasich has seen his share of controversy since his election in 2009. Not long after, the state legislature voted to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights, only to see the move overturned by voters. Kasich decided to let the voters’ choice stand, and not re-introduce another such measure.

Now, according to Dan Balz of the Washington Post, Kasich is being considered as a potential Republican candidate for president in 2016. And his supporters are pointing to the Ohio governor’s economic record to bolster his chances.

More than anything, he has focused on what he considers growth-oriented economic and budgetary programs. He closed an $8 billion budgetary hole during his first year in office. He has enacted tax and spending cuts, championed business-friendly regulations and made reformed government programs — all designed to stimulate a state economy long in decline. Government reforms include steps to slow the growth of Medicaid spending, privatize economic development and calculate aid to colleges and universities based on course completion and graduations rather than simply on enrollment.He claims significant success in job creation as well. When he took office, the state unemployment rate was 9.1 percent, down from a peak of 10.6 percent in December 2009. The current rate is down to 5.7 percent — below the national average. Rankings by the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University (place) Ohio 37th in the nation in total nonfarm jobs created this year. On a regional comparison, Ohio ranks ahead of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Illinois but behind Indiana and Wisconsin on that indicator.Scott Milburn, Kasich’s communications director, said current-year figures overlook bigger gains in earlier years. Dennis Hoffman, director of the Carey school’s L. William Seidman Research Institute, said Ohio is in “more of an enviable position” when measured by the growth in manufacturing or goods-producing jobs. Ohio ranks 18th in the first and 19th in the second.

It’s clear that the economy is a big subject in this year’s mid-term elections. And as Balz’ profile of Kasich suggests, governors’ economic records will come under scrutiny for 2016, as well. If you’re writing about your state’s gubernatorial race, it’s a good idea to know where it stands in terms of jobs.

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