John R. Kasich (R), Governor of Ohio and former member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Ohio’s 12th district (1983 – 2001), answered our questions about the strength of „Made in Ohio“, his home state’s special relationship with German companies, his recipe to avoid Washington-style gridlock in America’s most prominent battleground state and his perspective on the Prism-debate. He did not reveal, however, if his impressive economic and fiscal track record will prompt him to aim for the Republican nomination in 2016.
In recent business rankings, Ohio beat most neighboring states. What’s your recipe for success?
Ohio was just named the state with the most improved business climate by Chief Executive magazine in its survey of more than 700 CEOs. That is impressive and a reflection of what we have done to strengthen our state’s finances without a tax increase, cut taxes, streamline regulations and eliminate red tape, and reform our economic development system. We need to keep driving on all of these fronts and make sure that job creators have access to a workforce with the skills they need, but the formula is not complex, you just need the will to pursue it and not every state has that will the same way we do here in Ohio.
States like North Carolina, Florida, or Texas are still seen as more business friendly. How will you close that gap?
All of those states have lower overall tax burdens than Ohio, which is why we have cut taxes and are pursuing more tax cuts. We can continue to restrain state government’s costs so we can reduce taxes and we need to help local governments do so as well. Education and training are critical also. We lead those states already with our higher education and research systems, especially in health care. Better articulating those resources with the needs of job creators will be a leap-ahead achievement for us and we have got major resources behind that effort.
German companies are strongly represented in Ohio. What makes the state attractive for foreign investment?
Ohioans have a long tradition of making things, discovering things and inventing things—it is in our blood, we work hard at it and that focus on innovation continues today. For companies from Germany, where there is also a strong focus on research and development, Ohio seems very familiar. When you combine that ingenuity and the people and institutions that support it, with our advantages of location, the advantages become even greater. Ohio’s combination of innovation, location and workforce is the best in North America. We are within 600 miles of 60 percent of the population and have the world-class highway, rail and water links to fully leverage that proximity. The companies that are here stay here and grow here because they simply cannot duplicate their Ohio experience anywhere.
Ohio is the battleground state. How do you avoid being trapped in constant campaigning?
It is no more complex than simply choosing a better path. Weathervane policymaking can be a big temptation for some, and we see the product of it every day in Washington—gridlock. The best solutions to tough problems often are not the most popular ones, but that does not mean you walk away from them. If innovation produces complaints from the entrenched interests that are feeding off the status quo, so be it. Governance based merely on the avoidance of complaints is doomed to paralysis. Governance that is based on putting Ohio on a path to sustainable, broad-based prosperity is what Ohioans demand and deserve, and it is the North Star by which our Administration sets our compass.
Your political trademark is fiscal responsibility. Is the NSA’s Prism program a good use of American taxpayer’s money?
National security and foreign policy are not state-level issues so I try to resist weighing in on them in an official capacity. There is an increasing willingness to politicize these types of issues and I think that can interfere with our efforts to formulate and implement the best solutions for keeping America safe. That does not mean I do not have very strong views on them, especially on privacy and the duty of government to respect individual liberty, nor should anyone assume that I am not concerned by what I have read in the newspaper lately. It just means that I think we need a more constructive, less political dialogue in these areas so that Americans can be confident that their safety—and nothing else—is what’s driving policymaking.