Ohio legislators in our area mostly kept their seats after the November election. And they've been thinking of goals for the coming year.
State funding to local governments such as Washington County was reduced in 2011 to help balance the last state budget that was approved.
Democratic State Represenative Debbie Phillips is among those who believe a priority is restoring that funding, with a new budget to be discussed this year.
"Whether it comes from a new revenue source or existing sources," Phillips says, "I think that traditional partnership was damaged in the last budget, and it's our responsibility to restore that."
All the area's representatives point to the increased drilling in Ohio's Marcellus and Utica Shale regions, which largely include Southeast Ohio. But Republican representative Andy Thompson supports other measures aimed at making it easier for business to come to and stay in the Buckeye State.
"What are we doing to thwart investment, to discourage companies from creating jobs by burdening them with paperwork,"says Thompson, who, along with Phillips, serves a part of Washington County. "We're going to try to help companies in my district in particular."
Education, as usual, is a hot topic. Area Democrat legislators say they have problems with Governor John Kasich's recently-announced school initiatives. 30th District Senator Lou Gentile says that, with the Supreme Court decision on school funding now more than 15 years old, a new emphasis needs to be placed on increasing state education funding.
"Districts are continually being asked to rely on local taxes. Taxpayers continue to be asked to continue to foot the bill. We need to move away from this system toward a proposal that would, over time, increase the state's share of school funding."
An education issue supported by Representative Phillips, provides universal access by Ohio youngsters to pre-kindergarden classes.
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