Republican presidential candidate John Kasich said today in his first major policy speech of the campaign that, as president, he would gut the U.S. transportation and education departments and would balance the budget within eight years.
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Kasich, the governor of Ohio, said downsizing the two federal agencies and returning much of their power and funding to individual states would send money and control away from Washington and back to the states, a centerpiece of his economic plan.
He panned the federal gas tax in particular, saying he would return almost all of it to state coffers. He said he would limit the U.S. Department of Transportation’s role nearly entirely to providing research support to states.
"You keep your money and you fix your roads the way you want to," Kasich said in Nashua, New Hampshire, today.
Over 100 programs run by the Department of Education, meanwhile, would be packaged into four state grants, transferring control over education to the state and local levels, according to his plan.
A centerpiece of the roadmap Kasich laid out would involve balancing the federal budget within eight years of his assuming the presidency and his pushing for a constitutional amendment that would require a balanced budget annually. As a congressman, Kasich was a chief architect of balancing the federal budget in the 1990s, the last time it was balanced.
To rein in what he called unnecessary federal rules, he would enact a yearlong moratorium on new regulations “so we can catch our breath,” he said. "No more rules and regulations from Washington for one year."
His plan also calls for cutting the top tax rate for individuals from 39.6 percent to 28 percent and lowering the number of tax brackets from seven to three. For businesses, the top rate would drop from 35 percent to 25 percent.
Democrats portrayed Kasich's plan as more of the same from Republicans.
“Kasich’s ‘plan’ is simply unserious,” TJ Helmstetter, a spokesperson for the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement. "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. It would either explode the deficit or destroy the economy."
Kasich spoke before a crowd of more than 150 people in an automotive garage at Nashua Community College. He has pinned his hopes on winning the Republican primary in New Hampshire in February, though he is trailing in polls in the Granite State.