By Joe Guillen
Ohioans next year can expect an aggressive pursuit of the economic benefits of shale gas, reform of the state's workforce development programs and the rollout of another policy-driven budget plan, Republican Gov. John Kasich said Monday.
Kasich reflected on his first year in office, including the humbling repeal of Senate Bill 5 and the creation of thousands of jobs in Ohio, while outlining his priorities for 2012 during a year-end briefing with reporters at the state-owned governor's mansion in suburban Columbus.
The first-term Republican governor did not give many specifics about how he would achieve his goals next year. But he identified "chronic problems" that his administration will attempt to fix to help turn around the state's economy.
He said oil and gas companies coming to Ohio will be regulated -- but not over-regulated.
The state's severance tax, applied to companies that extract underground natural resources, is being re-evaluated. And Ohio is studying the possibility of assessing "impact fees" upon companies that drill. Some states charge such fees to help local governments compensate for needs that crop up as a result of a drilling boom.
Another priority next year will be tailoring workforce development programs to match available jobs. That means a renewed emphasis on vocational programs and better communication between employers and community colleges, Kasich said.
Kasich recited jobs statistics -- nearly 83,000 jobs created or retained in Ohio this year-- several times during the two-hour briefing.
"We were on death's doorstep," Kasich said of Ohio's economy. "Now we've stabilized the patient in this state."