Posts Tagged 'bipartisanship'

Funding Delays for Successful, Job-Creating Third Frontier Program ‘Unacceptable’

Ohio House Democratic Leader Armond Budish sent a letter to Gov. John Kasich today expressing his deep concern over ongoing funding delays in the bipartisan Ohio Third Frontier Program. Third Frontier was overwhelmingly approved by voters, and has a long -history of success in helping to create new jobs in technology and innovation, but has remained nearly idle for more than 18 months now. A copy of Leader Budish’s letter can be seen below.

The Honorable John R. Kasich
Office of the Governor
77 S. High Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215

Dear Gov. Kasich:

 I write to express my serious concern over the harm to economic development in Ohio being caused by prolonged funding delays in the Ohio Third Frontier Program.

 Ohio Third Frontier is a proven, job-creating economic development tool that was initially approved by the voters in 2005 and renewed and expanded in 2010.  It has a long history of bipartisan support and is considered by some to be a model economic development program envied by other states. 

As a passionate advocate for the program, I am very concerned about unwarranted delays in the funding of new projects under this program. At a time of serious economic challenges for Ohioans, I do not understand why there is not a greater sense of urgency to make these job-creation resources available more quickly. Moreover, the delays have created uncertainty and a loss of momentum, which jeopardizes the entire program.

I understand the desire for programmatic reviews, but after 18 months the Third Frontier remains stalled and over two-thirds of its funding capacity for Fiscal Year 2012 has been delayed.  Furthermore, these funding delays are with programs that the Ohio Third Frontier Commission and the Ohio Department of Development reviewed, analyzed and approved in October 2011.

The politicization of the Third Frontier approval process is also of great concern.  During the previous General Assembly there was bipartisan support to ensure that projects were awarded based on objective criteria applied by an independent review process. Yet, over the last year and against recommendations made by the Third Frontier independent reviewers, recommendations have been ignored or rejected.

The recent rejection of the LEEDCo project is a prime example of the potential perversion of the program. As you know, this project was preliminarily approved by an outside reviewer, the Ohio Department of Development, and business leaders who are representatives on the commission.  Following these approvals, the project was then denied by a majority of the commission, with little explanation or justification.

The inexplicable delays in this successful, bipartisan program have caused missed opportunities for job creation and have sent dangerous warning signs to investors, entrepreneurs and other job creators that this program is no longer a priority for Ohio. I hope that is not the case, but the slowed pace of funding and the recent denial of the LEEDCo project certainly indicate otherwise.

The Third Frontier was carefully designed to support entrepreneurs and research and development projects leading to new jobs in technology and innovation.  The financial returns to the state from all of this work were analyzed and reported by the Ohio Business Roundtable (attached) in preparation for the 2010 ballot initiative, so we can be confident that this program is making a significant impact.

It is my sincere hope that the funds will not be diverted to support other unrelated projects, possibly violating the letter and spirit of the Constitutional Amendment approved overwhelmingly by Ohioans. Any further delays in this successful, job creating program are simply unacceptable and only inhibit Ohio’s economic competitiveness.


State Rep. Armond Budish,
Ohio House Minority Leader



Republican Budget Cuts Responsible for More than 700 Teacher Layoffs this Week Alone

State Representatives Denise Driehaus and Mike Foley urged the Republican legislature and Gov. Kasich to take a serious look at the Kids and Communities First Fund announced by House Democrats this week.  The fund would help offset historically deep budget cuts after the layoff of more than 700 teachers that was disclosed over the course of two days.

Cleveland City Schools announced that 508 teaching positions would be lost at the end of this year while another 200 teachers take retirement packages.  The district will also shorten the school day and cut music and arts programs.  These layoffs come even as the district will place a $65 million levy on the ballot in the fall to close the budget hole created by the $59 million the district will lose due to state budget cuts. Additionally, the Cleveland Teachers Union agreed to a 5.6 – 6 percent pay cut for next year.  [Cleveland Plain Dealer, 4/17/12]

“These kinds of cuts will only continue statewide if we do not take action to curb Gov. Kasich’s massive budget cuts.  This week’s news is incredibly disheartening,” said Rep. Foley. “While unemployment rates slowly go down more than 700 teachers were laid off this week in two of the state’s largest districts.”

Cincinnati City Schools, the highest ranked urban district in the state, announced 237 teacher layoffs this week due to $43 million dollars in budget cuts.  The district says the layoffs are due to funding cuts. Cincinnati City Schools faces a projected deficit of more than $53 million ($53,868,502) in fiscal year 2013 and a frightening $115 million ($115,099,388) in fiscal year 2014.  Julie Sellers, President of the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers was quoted in the Cincinnati Enquirer as saying, “This year already most of our grievances were about overloaded classrooms…” [Cincinnati Enquirer, 4/18/12]

“These layoffs will not only hurt our children’s education and future, they will hurt the families of those losing jobs, predominantly women,” said Rep. Driehaus. “Gov. Kasich’s policies are bad for economic development and bad for women.  Our communities deserve better, but unfortunately we’re seeing that women and families are being disproportionally affected. I urge my Republican colleagues and Gov. Kasich to put partisan politics aside and do what is right for our children and their teachers by passing the Kids and Communities First Fund.”

This week, House Democrats announced the Kids and Communities First Fund will be offered as an amendment to Gov. Kasich’s Mid-Biennium Review (HB 487).  This fund will help keep teachers in the classroom and cops and firefighters on the streets in communities all across Ohio. Additionally, this fund will help curb the growing need for local tax levies due to state budget cuts and provide relief for local property taxpayers. The fund will make up to $400 million available this year from surplus revenue (currently $265 million), a portion of the Budget Stabilization Fund ($120 million), and $15 million from Gov. Kasich’s proposed severance tax increase.  The fund would be replenished after fiscal year 2013 by increased severance tax revenue.


Dem Lawmakers Disappointed in Husted’s Decision to Fight Counting Votes

State Representatives Kathleen Clyde and Alicia Reece expressed disappointment in Secretary of State Husted’s decision to appeal the federal court ruling to count provisional ballots in the undecided Hamilton County Juvenile judge race.

“I am incredibly disappointed in Secretary Husted’s decision to continue to drag out this voting debacle by once again appealing the federal court ruling to count the votes. The continued delay in resolving this case will cost citizens more of their hard earned tax dollars and further undermines confidence in Ohio’s election process,” said Rep. Reece. “Every citizen deserves to have their vote counted, and we will continue to fight for what is right and just.”

Last week, the Hamilton County Board of Elections came to a tie vote on whether to pursue yet another appeal of the federal court’s decision in favor of counting the provisional ballots.  Siding with the GOP board members, Secretary Husted voted late yesterday to appeal the decision. 

“Ohio has a provisional ballot crisis and Secretary Husted’s decision will only continue to prolong it in a crucial presidential election year,” said. Rep. Clyde.  “Secretary Husted has voted in favor of throwing out citizens’ votes even where poll workers admit they made a simple mistake and sent a voter to the wrong table. This is simply unacceptable.  It is the government’s job to tell voters where to vote and to count their votes.”

Last year, at an earlier stage of the 15-month long litigation, Secretary Husted voted with the GOP members of the Hamilton County Board of Elections to appeal an earlier order from the federal district court to count the provisional ballots.  The United States 6th Circuit Court of Appeals then said that Ohio’s provisional ballot laws operate in a way that is “fundamentally unfair to the voters of Ohio, in abrogation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of due process of law” and refused to overturn the district court’s decision to count the votes.  Likewise, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal of the 6th Circuit’s ruling.

House Democrats Outline 2012 Priorities to Strengthen Middle Class

Ohio House Democratic Leader Armond Budish and members of the House Democratic Caucus at a press conference announcing their legislative agenda for 2012. They will focus on jobs, communities, rights and opportunities to help Ohioans restore the American Dream.

Ohio House Democrats announced the beginning of their legislative agenda for 2012 to strengthen working and middle class families.  The priorities build upon the Compact with the Middle Class announced last year and focus specifically on four categories – jobs, communities, rights and opportunities.

“While Statehouse Republicans continue their overreaching partisan priorities, House Democrats are committed to common-sense solutions that put working and middle class families first,” said House Minority Leader Armond Budish (D-Beachwood).  “We will place a renewed focus this year on creating jobs, rebuilding Ohio communities, protecting the rights of Ohioans and improving education and workforce training opportunities.”

The legislative initiatives are a mix of new proposals and several bills that have already been introduced by House Democrats. The new bills include a Local Government Jobs Fund, a Community Foreclosure Protection Fund, a Voter’s Bill of Rights and the Ohioans Back to Work Program.  House Democrats will be introducing additional legislation in the coming weeks focused on putting working and middle class families first. 

“For the last year, Statehouse Republicans have been turning over state assets to private companies and giving away state tax dollars to special interest friends,” said Minority Whip Tracy Heard.  “Instead of leaving behind working families and hurting local communities, our priorities will help Ohioans restore the American Dream. 

Creating jobs continues to be a top priority for House Democrats.  The Community Jobs Protection Fund will help communities return cops and firefighters to the streets by dedicating every new dollar of state revenue back to local communities.  House Democrats have also developed the JobsOhio Accountability Act to ensure oversight and accountability of taxpayer dollars going to companies seeking state support. 

“Rather than balancing the budget on the backs of local communities and taking away workers’ rights, women’s rights and voters’ rights, our priorities will restore some balance in Ohio between Republican special interests and middle class families,” said Assistant Minority Leader Matt Szollosi (D-Oregon). 

Additionally, House Democrats have also proposed a new Ohio Voter’s Bill of Rights, improvements to help workers and new protections for healthcare patients against rate increases and claim denials. Greater protections for education funding are addressed through increased accountability measures and a new workforce training program has also been proposed.

“These priorities represent a continuation of our efforts to stand up for working and middle class families throughout Ohio,” said State Rep. Debbie Phillips. 

An outline of the House Democratic priorities is listed below.  Additional bills focused on jobs, communities, rights and opportunities will be introduced in the coming weeks.

Rep. Pillich to Introduce Legislation to Make State Watchdog More Accountable

State Rep. Connie Pillich (D-Montgomery) introduced legislation today to create greater accountability and oversight for the office of the Inspector General by requiring a bipartisan appointing process through the four legislative leaders.  This legislation will ensure the state’s top watchdog maintains the necessary distance from partisan political activities.

“Recent activities have brought attention to the need for greater distance from political partisanship by the state’s top watchdog.  The Inspector General is charged with the responsibility of investigating wrongdoing in state government and protecting taxpayers from waste, fraud and abuse within the executive branch.  Under no circumstance should Inspector General participate in any activity that could raise questions about the integrity and independence of the office,” said Rep. Pillich.

Serious questions about Inspector General Randy Meyer’s ability to objectively investigate wrongdoing in state government have been raised by his lack of judgment, and a report by the Columbus Dispatch that Mr. Meyer has only conducted 12 investigative reports, the fewest from the IG’s office since 2007.  And most recently the Cleveland Plain Dealer uncovered the hiring of Mr. Meyer’s son by ODOT, an agency overseen by a deputy Inspector General for ODOT, whom is appointed by and serves at the pleasure of Mr. Meyer.

“At a time when the people of Ohio feel Columbus and government are out of touch and unaccountable, the role of an independent Ohio Inspector General is more important than ever,” said Rep. Pillich. “While similar bills have been introduced in past General Assemblies it is now evidently clear that legislative action is needed to ensure the Inspector General be independent, and maintain an independent appearance so that investigations and recommendations will be impartial and viewed by others as impartial.”

This legislation will provide the necessary distance from political activities to ensure the Inspector General can effectively and objectively investigate potential wrong doing by state officials. It will do so by taking the appointing authority away from the governor and giving it to the four legislative leaders.  The appointment must be approved with 3 out of the 4 votes of these bipartisan leaders.  This bill will also adopt the same restrictions on political activity for all employees of the IG and the IG as followed by other legislative and administrative employees. The IG would serve a six year term subject to removal by the Senate for gross neglect, misconduct, and/ or dereliction of duty.

Leader Budish Disappointed in Partisan Appointment to Housing Study Committee

Ohio House Democratic Leader Armond Budish (D-Beachwood) sent a letter to Speaker Batchelder today raising concerns over Ohio Housing Study Committee appointments. House Bill 153, enacted last summer, included the formation of a task force to review the Ohio Housing Finance Agency. The task force is to include two members from each chamber appointed by the Speaker and Senate President, and tradition in similar situations has been to appoint one member from each party.  Speaker Batchelder appointed Reps. Cheryl Grossman and Peter Beck, both Republicans.  While Senate President Niehaus appointed one Democrat Sen. Mike Skindell, and one Republican Sen. Tim Schaffer. 

“I am deeply disappointed in the Speaker’s decision to insert partisan politics into the review of a well respected non-partisan and non-political agency,” said Leader Budish.  “I hope this is an unintentional oversight that we can remedy quickly.”

A copy of Leader Budish’s letter to Speaker Batchelder can be seen below.

Dear Speaker Batchelder,

With the Ohio Housing Study Committee set to begin its work this week to review the Ohio Housing Finance Agency, it has come to my attention that there is no Democratic representation on the Committee from the House.  As required in HB 153 enacted last summer, the Committee must include two members from each chamber of the General Assembly to be appointed by the Speaker and Senate President.  It was expected, both in the tradition of this institution and in the spirit of bi-partisanship, that one member from each party would be appointed to the Committee from both the House and Senate.

While President Niehaus has recognized the importance of providing bi-partisan balance on the Committee, I am disappointed to learn that you have instead chosen to appoint two members of your own caucus to the Committee, making the partisan legislative membership of the Committee 3 to 1 in favor of Republicans.  Given that the Committee is set to review an agency that has a board consisting of members appointed from both political parties, and the agency is widely viewed as a non-partisan and non-political entity, I am deeply concerned by your decision to tilt the legislative membership of the Committee toward a single political party.  It is my hope that this is simply an unintentional oversight on your part and not an indication of an attempt to bias the Committee’s work and findings.

Therefore, I ask that you reconsider your selection of House members and choose instead to appoint a member of the House Democratic Caucus.  I am happy to provide you with the name of a Democratic member who is willing and eager to serve on this important task force, and I look forward to working with you to remedy this oversight before the Committee begins its work tomorrow.

Armond Budish
Minority Leader
8th House District

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