Legislative leaders and Gov. John Kasich united at a news conference regarding the recently approved two-year state budget. But Kasich didn't get everything he wanted, and the budget isn't really final.
NBC4's Colleen Marshall sat down with Kasich for an exclusive interview about the good, bad, and undecided in the two-year spending plan.
It will be a working weekend for team Kasich, deciding how and where to exercise the governor's power for the line item veto.
"We'll sign the bill on Sunday, release the vetoes after we sign, and you will all understand why we are doing what we are doing," Kasich said. "It's not just a process of looking at it. We have to consult with certain members of the legislature. You know, we have to kind of figure out how to get along with them, but there are some things we won't get along with them, and you will know late Sunday night."
In Kasich's eyes, the good from the budget includes using turnpike funds for infrastructure improvements, and what he calls the biggest tax cut in the nation for small businesses. T
The bad, according to Kasich, is that his own party refused to back his proposals to accept federal dollars to extend Medicaid coverage to low-income Ohioans. It's a fight that will continue after Kasich signs the budget.
"As I like to say, [I'm] pleasantly persistent, and I'm not going in any way, shape or form, to blink on this program. This is critically important to our state, and it is critically important to helping our communities heal a number of people who need the help," Kasich said. "And It's help you can get from the federal government. It's our money. You know, we send money to Washington. I mean, I'd like to get our money back to solve our problem."
Democrats like Sen. Charleta Tavares lashed out at the spending plan, saying that it failed to extend Medicaid coverage, but the tax cuts benefit the wealthy and abortion restrictions were inappropriately pushed through on a budget bill.
"Very quickly after the budget agreement was reached yesterday went on Facebook and talked about the fact that this is an assault on women and an assault on poor people. She thought the taxes favored the wealthy. Democrats are out there right now, sending that message out," Kasich said. "I appreciate their concern about jobs and employment. When they were in charge, we lost 350,000 private sector jobs. Poverty went up. We were getting clobbered as a state. Now, we're growing. 170,000 private sector jobs grown. Our credit is up. We've had a myriad of programs for people who were poor, and I think it's fair to say when it comes to Medicaid expansion, programs for the working poor, the addicted. I've done everything that any governor could be expected to do and I'm proud of it because as the state does better, Colleen, we don't want to have people who live in the shadows be ignored. That's just against my philosophies and principles."
Kasich said he's proud of the bill's changes to school funding.
"We've got the largest increase in K-12 funding in a decade, and I'm really happy about it," Kasich said.
But he's also ready to fight for the initiatives he lost, including an increase in taxes for oil and gas interests.
When asked why he couldn't get the Republican party to support the plan to expand Medicaid, Kasich said, "Well, it's a controversial issue. Part of it is a misunderstanding about it. Some people think that it's Obamacare and it's not. Some people worry about whether the federal government will live up to their promises and if they don't we'll discontinue the program, and you know there's some philosophy involved in all of this," Kasich said.
While Kasich hasn't said where he will use his line item vetoes, abortion rights and women's groups are pressuring him to put a red line through the new abortion restrictions.
"Some critics are saying they were rushed through and put onto a budget bill where they don't belong. Can you give us any indications, what your thoughts are on that kind of pressure?" Marshall asked Kasich.
"First of all, you get pressure every which way on every bill. The fact is you look at it and determine if the provisions are reasonable, but people have to keep in mind, all of my career, I've been pro-life, and they just have to keep that in mind, as we will see as we work our way through the bill," he said.
No one expects Kasich to change his stance on abortion. He is known as a man who takes a hard line on issues, and that might be working for him. New poll numbers show his approval rating at 54 percent.
Kasich said he doesn't pay attention to polls, but concedes that his popularity could be up because he believes he is a changed man.
"I'll let you in on something that I don't want people to misinterpret, but my personal faith, my personal faith in God, the creator, has grown enormously over the last two and a half years, and what it does, it allows you to be free. It allows you to do things a lot of people might not think you would do. I mean, a lot of people thought, 'Oh my goodness, how could he do Medicaid expansion?' I'm comfortable with myself. I'm comfortable with my decisions and I am really lucky to be here," he said.
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