Ohio House Democratic lawmakers this evening responded to Gov. Kasich’s annual State of the State address in Westerville, Ohio. Though the governor touted a comeback for the Buckeye State, House Democrats noted that Ohioans disproportionately face lower quality-of-life standards than the rest of the nation.
“Ohio used to lead the nation in innovation and economic opportunity. We were first in flight, we have sent men to the moon and even more to the White House,” said House Democratic Leader Fred Strahorn (D-Dayton). “Now we lead the in all the wrong ways. We’ve tried everything their way for seven years straight. It’s just not working for the middle class and working families.”
After the last 7 years of total Republican control of state government, Ohio has dropped from 5th to 22nd in education, and ranks first in student debt and near last in college affordability. Though the state has seen an uptick in high school graduation rates in recent years, rates for minority students remain among the worst in the country.
“Headline after headline, study after study – Ohio isn’t leading the nation anymore. We’re slipping. We’ve fallen behind, and we’ve gotten off track,” said Democratic Whip Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron). “We’ve tried things the way one political party wants them, but it’s not working. We need to do something different. We need a change.”
Despite funding increases in the state budget to fight the state’s ongoing opioid crisis, deaths from opioid-related overdoses rose by 39 percent last year, nearly triple the national average. Ongoing issues with infant mortality and access to health care for women, infants and children, among other factors, rank the Buckeye State 39th in the nation in overall health.
“In the face of losing ground at home, in the face of diminishing opportunity and increasing debt – the Statehouse crowd continues to embrace the same failed policies, hoping things will get better,” said Assistant Democratic Leader Nicholas J. Celebrezze (D-Parma). “We won’t stop fighting. We’re fighting to get Ohio back on track, headed back to our place in the nation as a leader.”
Ohio’s job growth has trailed the national average for five straight years, and in 2017 ranked 33rd overall in job growth. In the past decade, middle class Ohioans have seen the sixth worst decline in wages as share of total income among U.S. states. In addition, Ohio incomes have dropped more than six percent in recent decades, which ranks worse than all but three other states.
“Ohioans send us to the Statehouse to do work that increases wages and creates more opportunity for more people to have a better life,” said Assistant Democratic Whip Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati). “But the hard truth is wages are down, the opportunity to get ahead is limited and the middle class is shrinking in Ohio. We won’t get our state back on track through the same priorities that got us in to this hole. We need a change.”
Here's what other Democratic lawmakers are saying:
“Since 2011, Ohio has fallen backward in too many standards of living,” said state Rep. Tavia Galonski (D-Akron). “Ohio is leading, but unfortunately it is leading in all the wrong ways. Our state was once a place where people came to start a new life, because they knew they could find good jobs and many other opportunities to better themselves and their families. In order for Ohio to begin leading in the right ways, changes must be made to attract future generations.”
“I appreciate Gov. Kasich’s comments during his final State of the State address,” said state Rep. Michael O’Brien (D-Warren). “However, Ohio is not moving ahead, we are falling behind. After $2 billion in budget cuts to local communities, we now have 32 Ohio cities on the state’s fiscal distress list because of inadequate funding for basic services. In addition, 17,000 state and local government jobs have been cut since 2007, which has reduced the number of police, firefighters and paramedics serving our communities. Ohio cannot afford to keep balancing the budget on the backs of local governments. We can and must do better for Ohio’s citizens.”
“I am proud to be an Ohioan and I am proud to call this great state my home, but I am continually saddened that many of the issues that have faced our state throughout recent years remain unsolved,” said state Rep. Teresa Fedor (D-Toledo). “I believe our state government can do better for Ohio. I believe that the dreams we have for ourselves, our families, our homes and our state can come true. However, the one-sided path we have been following has been hurting us, putting these dreams in jeopardy.
“Tonight, I wanted to see some plans made to protect and clean up Lake Erie. Toledo is my home, it is my constituents’ home, and the safety of our water is under threat. I hope to see many of the promises made tonight come true, and I hope the next administration and the state will have a greater focus on protecting Lake Erie and those who depend on it.”
“My fellow Democratic colleagues and I want Ohio to lead in economic growth, good jobs and affordable college for our kids,” said state Rep. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood). “The days of passing policies that only benefit the rich need to be over if we are ever going to make the American Dream come true for the majority of Americans. We can turn Ohio around with forward-thinking, progressive policies like equal pay. It is time to protect our communities’ future by strengthening our hardworking, everyday families.”
“The tempest is raging in Ohio, and the GOP leadership has abandoned the ship,” said state Rep. Kent Smith (D-Euclid). “Our Governor is either on a west coast book tour or is debating Bernie Sanders. Every other statewide Republican officeholder is running for a different job, and the Ohio House GOP is at war with itself. Meanwhile the S.S. Ohio is adrift in dangerous waters that threaten to swallow up our middle class and plunge more of our citizens into poverty. Ohioans deserve better. They will remember and make a change in November.”
“Governor Kasich painted a great picture of Ohio under his leadership, but the facts are stubborn,” said state Rep. John Boccieri (D-Poland). “14 of the last 18 years, Republicans have controlled Ohio’s government. Ohio has seven of the nation’s top 100 cities; however, eight out of 10 of Ohio’s largest cities are economically distressed.
“What I find more troubling is the opioid epidemic. Governor Kasich has stalled community intervention because of devastating budget cuts to local governments. Ohio ranks second worst in the nation for cuts to local government funds, and this has crippled a local response to this public health crisis. Ohioans are leaving the state in search of jobs to accommodate the rise in these costs. We need to provide the right resources for local governments to combat the opioid crisis. We need to invest in small businesses to help jumpstart Ohio’s economy. We need to tie our curriculum to our local economy to ensure Ohio will have a competitive workforce.”