- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 1, 2015

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, fighting to rise in the Republican presidential race, says he would allow U.S. companies to repatriate without penalty trillions of dollars they have earned and kept offshore and then create a new system ensuring Americans aren’t double-taxed on foreign profits.

“I’m for bringing the taxes down, and I’m for repatriation at no charge. Just bring the money back,” Mr. Kasich told The Washington Times. “I would let them bring it back, and then I would have a territory program where you don’t get double-taxed. You pay taxes where you do your operations. If you do an operation in Poland, then you get taxed there. And then you bring your profits home.

“I think it would be the most significant stimulus package we’ve seen in modern times, because there are so many dollars that can come back and be invested in plants and equipment, which would help workers to get higher wages,” he added.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Washington Times after last week’s CNBC candidates debate in Boulder, Colorado, Mr. Kasich also made clear that he intends to significantly reshape government by freezing federal hiring, privatizing certain programs and turning over others to the states backed with federal funds without the bureaucracy.

“I don’t think we should hire any more people,” he said. “I have the lowest number of state employees in Ohio in 30 years. And that comes from managing, not hiring more people, and being able to manage things to get them done better.”

Among the federal agencies, he recommended keeping the Environmental Protection Agency, which most conservatives revile, but he suggested that the Education Department, Transportation Department, Labor Department, Medicaid and foreign corporate assistance programs such as the Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Protection Insurance Corp. could be radically restructured.

“We need an EPA that is going to balance the environment with economic growth, using common sense like we do in Ohio. We need to do that federally,” he said. “But I think that programs like Education, welfare, Medicaid, infrastructure, job training, all of those programs ought to be sent to the states.

“I wouldn’t exactly call them bloc grants, but I would begin to shift the power and money and the influence,” he said.

Mired in the single digits in the polls, Mr. Kasich has positioned himself as a common-sense fiscal conservative whose record in Ohio shows he can achieve a balanced budget, lower taxes and economic growth while appealing to non-ideological voters. He won 51 percent of the union vote in Ohio, for instance.

“You can’t overregulate, you have to reduce your taxes and you have to be fiscally responsible. And we have to take advantage of this energy boon that we have in this country,” he said, succinctly repeating his stump speech agenda. “All of those things together are going to give you the kind of economic growth you want. And then you get to a balanced budget by both trimming your expenses and growing the economy.”

He told The Times he has a patient strategy that plans to use the primary in New Hampshire, where votes are fiscally conservative, as a slingshot toward the upper echelon of the Republican field.

Asked when he expects his poll numbers to start rising, Mr. Kasich answered: “After New Hampshire. That’s what I think. We’re in for the long haul, of course.”

Obamacare, the Fed and Paul Ryan

The Ohio governor’s positioning has put him at loggerheads with some of the leading candidates in the field right now on issues such as immigration reform, Obamacare and fiscal planning. He has even suggested that some of his rivals’ tax plans are “fantasy.”

On the trail, it has been clear that Mr. Kasich has taken aim at the fiscal policies of front-runners Donald Trump and Ben Carson, but during the interview he repeatedly declined to single out any candidates whose plans he thought were fiscally unsound. Instead, he called on the media and voters to analyze details carefully and to make sure the math adds up.

“I’ve said enough about all of these numbers,” he said, even throwing a bone to one of his rivals: “I’m starting to hear that some people think maybe Ben Carson has some good ideas on Medicare.”

That said, Mr. Kasich made clear he doesn’t intend to change his budget-laden message. He expects the economy to come into focus when New Hampshire voters casts ballots in February.

He also made clear that he doesn’t plan to alter, in the face of conservative opposition, his advocacy for a path to legalization for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country once the southern border is fully secure.

“You have to register, and if you haven’t violated any laws, you get a path to legalization,” he said, explaining his immigration policy. “If you’ve committed crimes, you will need to be deported or put in prison. But if you have been law-abiding and contributing, then I want you to have a path to legalization.

“But clearly, this border has to be built, it has to be protected, and we can have no more excuses for people coming in illegally,” he said.

Asked about whether such a position puts him in peril with conservative voters who often dominate the Republican primaries, Mr. Kasich shrugged off the concerns.

“I don’t get that question in town halls. I don’t get any of that. I think most people realize that if [illegals] are here and haven’t broken the law, that it is impractical to be able to ship them out of the country and break up families. I just don’t get any pushback on it.”

The two-term Ohio governor also said any Republican reform of Obamacare must ensure that those who want health insurance can get it, even while shifting the system from federally controlled to more market-driven.

“I think the ultimate answer on the health insurance question is two things. One, we need to change the very model of how we do health insurance from the current system that incentivizes quantity rather than quality,” he said. “And secondly, I would basically block-grant some of the subsidy money back to the states and I would turn Medicaid back to the states and free it up.

“And there’s probably going to be a need for some state subsidy to make sure the working poor are going to get health insurance ,” he said. “You don’t want to have a situation where you have millions of Americans lose their health insurance.”

Mr. Kasich said he opposes efforts by some conservatives to move the Federal Reserve under greater control of Congress, but that he believes the Fed could be more transparent and needs to be vigilant for the potential of future inflation.

“The Fed should be a little more open. But I’m not for turning the Fed over to Congress,” he said. “I think the Fed needs to be in the position where it is watching the growth and the money supply and the whole philosophy of money because you don’t want to inflate yourself into a bad situation.”

Mr. Kasich, who served as House Budget Committee chairman when Rep. Paul Ryan worked as an aide on the panel, also gave a hearty endorsement to the new House speaker.

“He and I kind of come from the same Republican bloodline: Jack Kemp, pro-growth, Ronald Reagan. That’s the way I see it,” he said. “Paul is a very rational, reasonable leader who will promote good, aggressive pro-growth policies that will be responsible.

“I think he’s going to be a good speaker who will bring people together. If I am president, I’m going to be thrilled to work with him,” he said.

• John Solomon can be reached at jsolomon1@washingtontimes.com.

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