COLUMBUS, Ohio — Gov. John Kasich said Thursday that he is creating a position for a chief innovation officer to pursue and oversee developments in emerging technologies, as he seeks to guide the state through a challenging budget cycle.
The Republican governor announced the post in wide-ranging remarks to a gathering of Ohio business leaders. He was joined by House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger and Senate President Larry Obhof, who both signaled their interest in cooperating with the Kasich administration despite both chambers now having veto-proof Republican majorities.
Kasich repeated warnings about lagging revenues and an economic slowdown headed into the state budget season. He’s expected to introduce his budget, any session’s most significant fiscal and policy document, on Jan. 31.
“It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be tight,” he said. “But we’re going to be able to live through it.”
Agencies have had to submit both a flat budget and a 10-percent reduced budget for the biennium, as Kasich works out how to balance his budget with a revenue shortfall approaching $621 million. He said he’s been delivering the message that some agencies may have to “give a little back” after several budgets had increases.
“We can’t look at government as like cutting, when actually what we’re doing is we’re reducing a significant increase,” he said. “We have to think about things that way, and we also have to innovate to squeeze out the most we can out of efficiency, so when the tough times come, we deal with it.”
Kasich said the innovation officer would head a new Ohio Institute of Technology and oversee developments in emerging technology such as aerospace and biomedical engineering. A spokesman said the officer probably will work out of the Governor’s Office with a staff of an undetermined size.
The governor vowed to deliver a budget that’s structurally balanced — “I don’t care what it takes” — and to leave the state in sound fiscal shape as he faces term limits in January 2019.
“You don’t go from $8 billion in the hole to $2 billion in your rainy-day fund by being in a panic, but it means you look at every program and you make choices,” Kasich said. “You make choices and you keep things in perspective, in terms of what you’ve done to help people and the fact that we’re all in this together.”
He urged Ohioans to help each other out in their own communities, whether in fighting infant mortality and human trafficking, improving education or tackling the opioid crisis.
“Stick your nose in somebody else’s business. That is what the Lord wants,” he said. “Live a life a little bigger than yourself.”