Address: 399 Terri Ave, Steubenville.
Occupation: Ohio Senator.
Past Offices Held: State Representative, 2011; Current State Senator
1. Ohio has had some success in regaining jobs in the wake of the recession, but the unemployment rate remains over 7 percent. What specifically will you do to help create jobs in the state?
The number one issue facing our families throughout the new 30th District is jobs and the economy. We need to ensure that businesses from every background see Ohio as an attractive place to invest in. I have a strong record of promoting public policy that will create jobs in our state. My record is one of action. As the assistant director in the Governor's Office of Appalachia I managed a nearly $10 million dollar economic development budget and was responsible for providing funding to Washington County and all the counties in Ohio's 30th District. I secured funding for job training programs, business development incentives and critical infrastructure projects. As a legislator I have been effective. I have worked across the political aisle to pass legislation in our state that will encourage job growth.
To create jobs in our region, I will continue to support the responsible development of our natural resources like shale gas, while making sure the economic benefit from energy development stays with Eastern and Southeastern Ohioans. I will see to it that my Ohio Workers First Amendment is fully implemented. The Bipartisan amendment encourages the use of Ohio's workers and small businesses in the oil and gas industry. I will also continue to support our local community colleges as they prepare our workforce for new energy jobs. I am opposed to Governor Kasich's efforts to raise taxes on oil and gas development. I believe that this proposal will redistribute wealth from southeast Ohio by providing tax cuts to more affluent parts of Ohio. Our region continues to struggle economically, the development of shale gas presents a real economic opportunity for our region and the Governor's proposal would not benefit our part of Ohio.
In regards to the coal industry, I have always stood up for miners in our region. I will work to support good wages, benefits and safe working conditions. As well as encourage investment that will allow us to continue to use our coal resources.
I also believe that we need a comprehensive manufacturing policy for our state. While we have seen some progress in Ohio's manufacturing sector, we need to do more. I will make sure that tax incentives are directed at companies that create jobs in Ohio, rather than companies that are outsourcing jobs. I worked closely with Ormet, AEP and Jobs Ohio to ensure that Ormet received a short term power agreement. I am strongly committed to protecting good paying manufacturing jobs in Southeast Ohio.
2. Ohio is expecting a sizable budget surplus. There have been cuts to local government funding in recent years, from schools to cities and counties and many would like to see that money go to them. Should any of the surplus be spent and if yes, how?
Ohio's last Biennium budget was balanced on the backs of local government services and public education. This is not a formula for economic growth. I believe that budgets are about priorities and we should prioritize investing in our education system and provide critical services for our citizens. If we are going to keep existing businesses in our part of Ohio and attract new companies we must be able to provide police and fire protection as well as other local services as well, we need to have a 21st century system of public education.
One of the top concerns I hear from local officials is that the cuts to local services are going to result in more levies and possible layoffs. This has a real impact on our communities. When police officers and firefighters are laid off this hurts our local economy and jeopardizes public safety. Our local economy cannot thrive under a budget bill that weakens local services and cuts education.
Ohio has a balanced budget amendment so we cannot spend more than we take in. The current budget we are under, which I voted against, increased spending from the previous biennium by 2 billion dollars. Spending went up while funding for our schools and services was drastically cut.
The current surplus the state, in my judgment, is money that was taken from local governments and education. I think it is appropriate that we restore funding for schools and local services so that we can adequately educate our children and provide critical services that will make us economically competitive.
3.Ohio's school-funding system has been declared unconstitutional multiple times due to its reliance on property taxes, yet a solution has remained elusive. Do you believe the situation is likely to change in the near future, and how would you propose addressing the issue?
Ohio continues to have a school funding system that has been ruled unconstitutional. In the upcoming legislative session this issue will be one of my top priorities. The over reliance on property taxes to fund our schools is taking a toll on local property owners and is not an equitable way to fund education.
Properly funding our schools and ensuring that we have a 21st century education system in this state is absolutely essential to improving our economy in the future.
We have yet to see a comprehensive solution to this problem in Columbus from the current administration. I believe that the former system of an "Evidence Based Model," proposed by the former governor's administration, was successful in implementing a fair school funding system. The EBM ultimately shifted funding responsibilities, slowly and over time, from the local level to the state level. I believe this model not only provided for a proper and constitutional funding model, but also alleviated disparities between school districts. As a result, through this model, students in smaller communities such as Marietta are receiving the same quality of support and funding as larger or more affluent cities, like Columbus or Upper Arlington.
Leaders in Columbus need to focus on ensuring that our public education system is being properly funded. It is imperative that we provide our students with the opportunities and tools necessary to thrive in a 21st century job market.