The differences in perspective on Ohio's economy, unemployment and economic development foreshadow next year's campaign season, which will see primaries and then a governor's race next November.
At an Ohio Chamber of Commerce event Dec. 18, Ohio Gov. John Kasich touted his accomplishments with the economy, hitting on a recent theme that the state had lost roughly 375,000 jobs and had an $8 billion budget hole when he came into office after the great recession hit.
Today, Kasich noted, the state's budget is balanced and the rainy-day fund has $1.5 billion. Meanwhile he touted 175,000 private-sector jobs that have been created.
"We are halfway back to what we lost in private-sector employment," Kasich reportedly told chamber members. "There is a growing recognition that Ohio is the place to be."
The Columbus Dispatch wrote that Kasich told the crowd that the key to continuing momentum is more cuts to the state income tax beyond the five-year 21 percent cut implemented in 2005 and the 10 percent reduction enacted this year.
"Cutting the income tax is not about some darn mindless philosophy," Kasich said. "It's about making Ohio more attractive and more competitive with other states."
After the state's jobs report for November came out on Friday, Democrats were quick to highlight that the numbers reflect something different than Kasich's picture.
The report shows that Ohio lost 12,000 jobs last month and has 427,000 people currently looking for work.
A release from state Rep Debbie Phillips, D-Albany, slammed Kasich on the latest numbers.
"Gov. Kasich's top-down economic policies are in full effect, and it's no coincidence that Ohio was No. 1 in the nation for job loss in November. Ohio is moving in the wrong direction," she said. "Instead of catering to special interests, we should be prioritizing our middle-class families, investing in our schools and communities and restoring accountability to the failing so-called economic development agency JobsOhio."
JobsOhio, Kasich's privatized version of the Ohio Department of Development, has been under fire for a number of issues over the past year, including questions about its transparency, as lawmakers set it up to be exempt from most public records laws.
Phillips took issue with the picture of Ohio painted by Kasich and other Republican leaders during the Chamber of Commerce event.
She said Ohio is 44th in the nation for job creation with unemployment at 7.5 percent.
"Ohio needs to grow our economy by putting working and middle class families first," she said. "What we heard today is more of the same failed trickle-down policies, which knocked Ohio back down just when we were starting on the road to recovery."
During his speech to the chamber, Kasich announced that Lex Wexner, founder of the Columbus-based L Brands Inc., which owns Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, has agreed to help sell Ohio.
"The cool factor matters," Kasich reportedly said, according to Business Week. "I don't know whether we're going to have a Victoria's Secret-type marketing plan for Ohio, but it isn't a bad thought, is it?" he joked, adding, "The guy's a brilliant marketer, and we couldn't have anybody better."
Also during the event, Kasich and Republican General Assembly leaders announced they will approach voters in the May primaries to renew and expand a public-works program to budget $1.87 billion over 10 years for water, sewer, road, bridge, and other local projects, the Toledo Blade reported.
A $1.35 billion program was previously passed by voters in 2005 with 54 percent of the vote.