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PoliticsOhio: Kasich Faces Off With Oil And Gas Drillers

Oil and gas drilling companies in Ohio have been in the spotlight this week. Governor Kasich raised concerns that these companies are bringing out of state workers to fill these jobs. Statehouse Bureau Chief Karen Kasler joins Emily McCord to discuss the relationship between the Governor and the Oil and Gas Industry in Ohio.

Welcome to PoliticsOhio I'm Emily McCord. Oil and gas drilling companies in the state have been in the spotlight this week. Governor Kasich raised concerns about these companies bringing out of state workers to fill these jobs. Karen Kasler joins me, she is the Statehouse Bureau Chief for Ohio Public Radio, thanks for being here.

Kasler: No problem.

M: To what extend is this happening in Ohio?

K: Well, that’s the thing I don’t think anybody knows. This is something that Governor Kasich has talked about since he took office. This idea that the oil and natural gas drilling industry in Ohio is going great and he wants Ohioans to benefit from it. He has joked a couple of times about not wanting to see foreigners on these oil and natural gas wells and by foreigners he means people from West Virginia and Indiana and Michigan and Pennsylvania and that’s gotten a couple of laughs but now he says he's heard reports that's actually what's happening that these oil and gas companies are coming in and they are bringing their own workers, out of state workers in, and not offering up those jobs to Ohioans so the Governor thinks Ohioans are missing out on those jobs. And what this very well may be, too, is the severance tax that he wants to raise on oil and natural gas drillers.


M: So what are the oil and gas companies saying about these charges?

K: Well, they are saying first of all that the industry is doing so well has invested so much money, $3 billion in the state, that they need to move quickly, they need to start the process, need to get in very quickly and that the workers in Ohio just don't have the training that workers in other states that have seen more drilling  and so they are bringing in workers now because those are the people they need and need to get them from wherever they can get them. They also say, the drillers also say, that their drilling activity is actually sparking business and economic activity in Ohio because Ohioans are now building restaurants and hotels and other businesses that are supporting the drillers. So the drilling industry says they are indirectly benefiting Ohio's economy if not employing as many as Ohioans as the Governor wants to see they are certainly sparking business and economic activity in that part of the state.

M: So how big of a problem is this for Governor Kasich.

K: Well, that's the thing I don’t think he knows. He said in his discussion about this earlier in the week that he hasn’t seen any itemized reports or anything that specifically points to this. We don’t yet know exactly how many people are involved here but certainly the concern is happening at the Governor's office he’s peaking publicly about this and he believes it is a problem and he wants to actually investigate it and try to find out what are the numbers, how many people are involved, and the oil and gas drilling industry is now saying the state should be happy with what is happening with economic activity not talking about investigating the industry to try to find out about how many people are working there from out of state versus how many people were hired in Ohio.

M: You mentioned a severance tax the governor wants to impose on these oil and gas companies can you bring us up to speed on that?

K: Well, there's not a whole lot to talk about with hat right now. The Governor had wanted to do that for a while he wanted to use the revenue from the increased severance tax from oil and natural gas drillers to offset state income tax cuts that he wants to put out of all Ohioans and of course the drilling industry does not want to see that tax go up and there are a lot of Republican lawmakers who also don’t want to see that tax go up so that tax has been dead for quite a while. But the Governor has been quietly working on resurrecting it and trying to get something moving forward on it, so when he made this announcement, of all things, at an event where he was honoring the Ohio State University football team for going undefeated he made this announcement about workers from out of state working on oil and natural gas wells it suggests that he wants to resurrect this conversation and wants to get back into this debate about whether this severance tax should go up. He certainly wants to see it go up. And this idea that non-Ohioans are taking jobs and wages that Ohioans should get certainly suggests that he wants to talk about how the oil and natural gas industry is going to rectify that and make things better for Ohioans.

M: It seems curious, doesn’t that contradict the, sort of, Republican Party line to impose taxes on big companies, aren’t these the folks that are going to be creating jobs?

K: Well, I think first of all Governor Kasich has been absolutely adamant in his desire to see the state income tax cut or eliminated is his overall goal and so I think he thought this would be a great way to do that because the  severance tax that Ohio drillers pay is a lot lower than what is paid in other states. So, I think he thought this was an easy deal, and I can remember when he proposed it in the summer and proposed it in a press conference and within a couple of hours there were some Republican lawmakers who said "no, no we don’t want to do that" and so I think the pushback has been a bit of surprise from the Governor that doesn’t mean he has given up on it.

M: I’ve been speaking with Karen Kasler from the Ohio Public Radio Statehouse News bureau, thanks so much for being here.

K: Oh you're welcome, have a great weekend.