Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Thursday laid out part of his agenda if elected to the White House, saying he plans to balance the federal budget in eight years, cut taxes while boosting military spending and return power from the federal government to the states in areas such as education.
Mr. Kasich, a 2016 GOP presidential candidate, was speaking at Nashua Community College in New Hampshire — a state that figures to be crucial for his campaign going forward.
“Folks, all the politics, all the focus groups, all the polls, all the TV ratings need to go out the window, and we need to come together,” Mr. Kasich said. “Talk is cheap — standing on a corner and yelling and screaming is like a clanging bell if you cannot accomplish anything.”
Mr. Kasich, who helped craft the last balanced budget plan during the 1990s as chairman of the House Budget Committee, said cutting taxes while balancing the budget is possible with the right conditions in place for economic growth.
“We will not only cut taxes, but we will balance our budget in eight years — both of them,” he said. “Because to balance a budget, you need economic growth while at the same time you manage your spending. Both of them lead us to a balanced budget, which ultimately can lead us to a place where we can begin to pay down our national debt.”
Mr. Kasich called for cutting the top individual income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 28 percent, eliminating the estate tax, increasing the earned income tax credit by 10 percent and cutting the top business tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent.
“This looks like a pretty big tax cut for the top end and a little bit at the bottom,” said Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. “There’s not much going to the middle class.”
In an interview before his speech, Mr. Kasich said, “If you are a person that thinks you ought to pound the rich into submission, I guess you won’t like the plan.”
On spending, Mr. Kasich would limit the federal role in education, transportation, job training and Medicaid. Dollars now dedicated to those programs would go into large grants for state leaders to manage.
“I’m sending all the programs in the federal government back,” he said.
He does propose cuts to Medicare that would slow the growth rate of the health care program for more than 50 million elderly and disabled people.
The plan is cause for optimism among some who questioned Mr. Kasich’s commitment to fiscal conservatism after he expanded Medicaid eligibility in Ohio as part of the federal health overhaul, said Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform and a former Kasich critic.
Mr. Norquist called it “a grown-up approach” on spending and “significantly pro-growth” on taxes. He said Mr. Kasich’s policies were more practical than some plans that call for blowing up the existing tax system.
“Everything on his plate is doable, is achievable,” Mr. Norquist said.
Democratic National Committee spokesman T.J. Helmstetter called Mr. Kasich’s plan “simply unserious.”
“It would not balance the budget, but it would choke off critical programs that people depend on and cripple the federal government’s ability to function,” Mr. Helmstetter said. “It would either explode the deficit or destroy the economy.”
Mr. Kasich is running seventh nationally and sixth in New Hampshire in the latest RealClearPolitics averages of recent polling on the 2016 GOP field.
One of the only spending increases he is pitching would go to the military. Mr. Kasich wants to boost military spending by $102 billion, or 17 percent, between 2017 and 2025.
Mr. Kasich also said there can be no balanced budget without “dealing with the problem of entitlements — to change those entitlements in such a way that we can make them sustainable but yet delivering the services that our people need.”
“I have done that before, and we will do it again,” he said.
⦁ This story is based in part on wire service dispatches.