As the 130th General Assembly ends and the 131st prepares to convene, it is important to look ahead at the key issues impacting the 99th District. Economic development remains the central focus for the state of Ohio as well as our corner of the state. But beyond that, there are three key legislative issues that will directly impact that development:
- Fair and adequate funding for education;
- CAUV formula reforms; and
- Balancing energy needs with environmental protections.
First, workforce development rests squarely upon education that is comprehensive, robust and challenging. We need to offer more options for our students so they can better investigate their interests and passions which, if initiated properly, can lead to meaningful employment. I encourage enhanced vo-tech and vocational agriculture education programs in addition to the traditional college preparatory track.
There is no doubt that education is an investment in our future and to provide for maximum output, we must seek to provide adequate and equitable funding. I pledge to continue working within the Education Funding Caucus to facilitate the passage of subsequent legislation to do just that.
Second, we must seek to develop a formula for fair agricultural taxation that reflects 21st century realities.
When the Current Agricultural Use Value (CAUV) was first developed in the 1970’s, our economy was relatively regional in nature and interest rates were high. Now we face a global economy with wildly fluctuating crop prices coupled with historically low interest rates—the perfect storm for a huge increase in taxes. A new formula must be developed for fair taxation with respect to agriculture. In the final analysis, agriculture not only sustains us, but drives our economy in many ways.
Third, the shale play remains active in Ohio and neighboring states. Though we will probably not experience horizontal drilling to the extent of southeastern Ohio, we are still in a position to see additional injection wells for brine disposal.
Make no mistake, our local brine wells have been operating in a safe manner. However, with increased drilling both within Ohio and beyond, comes the need for additional injection wells. It is incumbent upon us to develop standards that protect the environment and simultaneously permit the safe disposal of brine.
This is the reality we face: we all use oil and natural gas products to various degrees and, as such, are bound to entrepreneurs to produce our energy needs safely and efficiently. Hence, additional standards that protect our watersheds (Lake Erie and the Ohio River) while permitting prudent energy production must be developed.
Clearly, education funding reforms, CAUV reforms, and injection well safety are interwoven into the fabric of economic development. These three issues, then, form the triumvirate of challenges to be faced early on in the 131st General Assembly—challenges that I, for one, view as opportunities to bring about a better future for us all.
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