Gov. John Kasich's poll numbers are at a record high, and the Quinnipiac poll out this week finds that Kasich holds a lead over all of his likely Democratic opponents. But the news wasn't as good for the Governor when pollsters asked about his budget - 48% said they oppose the overall idea of cutting income taxes and expanding the sales tax, with 42% supporting it. And the numbers are worse when it's explained that the income tax will be cut to 5% while the sales tax will be expanded to include tickets, haircuts, lobbyists and legal services. The costs of moving the State of the State speech out of the Statehouse to Lima were more than double what officials there expected, but they're also saying it was worth the money. The Republican-dominated House has approved Gov. John Kasich's proposal to raise around $1.5 billion for state highway projects through Ohio Turnpike bonds. And the latest ratings of public school performance from the 2011-2012 school year show that schools made strong academic gains in eighth-grade math and science, but two districts are on academic emergency with eleven districts on academic watch.
The governor's budget has been out for almost a month, and activists and groups continue to review it as hearings continue in the Ohio House. This week a panel of experts talked budget at the Columbus Metropolitan Club, and afterwards two budget watchers sat down to discuss it further. John Begala, executive director of the Center for Community Solutions, and Greg Lawson of the conservative leaning Buckeye Institute agree that they like parts of the budget. But they disagree strongly over one element - the Medicaid expansion. Meanwhile, Rep. John Carney of Columbus continues to share the concerns of minority Democrats in the House, who are worried about how the shift in reliance on income taxes to property taxes will hurt lower-income Ohioans.
And a visit to someplace that few people have seen - and even fewer are likely to go to in the future. The state's exotic animal facility is nearly ready to host lions, tigers, bears, snakes, primates or any other animal that could end up there as a result of the law that passed last year. The Department of Agriculture opened up the high-security facility in Reynoldsburg east of Columbus to the media this week, and Agriculture Director David Daniels and state veterinarian Tony Forshey showed off the three areas containing cages for large animals, for primates, and for reptiles.
March 1, 2013