Franklin County’s six Democratic House members made a unique joint appearance for a town hall Thursday, where they highlighted state challenges, concerns about the new two-year state budget and legislation they are working to pass.
All six voted against the two-year, $65.5 billion budget that passed in late June.
“Show me your budget and it will show me your priorities,” said Rep. Kristin Boggs, D-Columbus, who organized the event. Lawmakers can talk about opioids and education, but “If it’s not addressed in the budget, that’s pretty cheap talk.”
Democrats didn’t think the budget did enough in those areas, Boggs said, and it sought to do things like freeze enrollment in Medicaid expansion. Republicans have overridden some of Gov. John Kasich’s Medicaid-related vetoes, which “chipped away at” Medicaid coverage, Boggs said.
Rep. Richard Brown, D-Canal Winchester, said the people in his district want good jobs, good schools, decent health care.
“The state of state is not as great as some Republicans would lead you to believe,” he said.
Brown ran down some state statistics — job growth trailing the national average for 56 consecutive months, more babies die by their first birthday in Ohio than 45 other states and we rank 45th in college affordability.
“We can do better and must do better,” Brown said.
They were joined by Reps. Hearcel Craig, Bernadine Kennedy Kent, David Leland and Adam C. Miller.
Members highlighted some legislation they are focusing on. Leland, D-Columbus, for example, wants to add Ohio to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, requiring the state’s elector to cast their vote with whoever wins the popular vote nationally.
Leland also wants to do away with Ohio’s marriage penalty, where couples with two incomes pay a higher income tax rate when filing jointly than if they filed separately. Leland wants to do away with the state requirement that Ohioans must joint file their state taxes if they file jointly on their federal income tax return. He would pay for it by eliminating the pass-through income tax exemption for business owners earning more than $250,000.
Kennedy Kent wants to end Ohio’s distinction as the only state not to mandate police officers to report child abuse if witnessed. She also wants to require every county educational service center to employ an emergency response planner and wants more access to health care.
“I want everyone to be able to get health care,” she said. “It’s well worth it that we save everyone and everyone appears to be equal.”
The modest crowd asked questions of the Democrats on topics including the state barber board, distracted driving and immigrant settlement.
Mark Cole of Columbus said the property tax is being abused. “More and more taxes are being dumped on middle-income homeowners. The city is granting tax abatements to everyone who asks for it.”
Lawmakers said city council could speak for itself, but they agreed that cuts to the local government fund by the state and lack of education funding is adding to the problem.
“Many of us are stuck with the bill. Our homeowners and our seniors are suffering,” Craig said.