Democratic legislators criticize governor ahead of speech

Democratic legislators criticize governor ahead of speech

YOUNGSTOWN — State legislators from the Mahoning Valley said they want to hear Gov. John Kasich speak about how he will improve the economy of Ohio in tonight’s State of the State address.

But the legislators, who are all Democrats, said today that they doubt the Republican governor will deliver.

“The governor will say ‘we’re moving forward,’ but jobs are not improving in this state,” said state Rep. Ronald V. Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th. “Things here are not as good as Gov. John Kasich will tell us they are.”

Ohio’s unemployment rate is on the rise and higher than the national average, said state Rep. Nick Barborak of Lisbon, D-5th.

In 2013, the state’s unemployment rate increased from 6.7 percent to 7.2 percent. The national rate is 6.6 percent.

State Rep. Tom Letson of Warren, D-64th, said Kasich has promised a business-friendly atmosphere, but the tax bill approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed into law by Kasich — which included a 0.25 percent state sales tax increase and expansion — is devastating families.

“He’s overpromised and under-delivered,” Letson said.

The legislators also complained about the lack of movement on an increase on the tax rate for fracking.

State Rep. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown, D-58th, said he offered a proposal to increase the tax to 7.5 percent and the Republican-controlled state Legislature won’t consider it.

“I offered something that is conservative,” Hagan said. “Other states have much higher taxes.”

Republicans are considering a proposal to subject fracking to a 1 percent tax on gross receipts over the first five years of production and then 2 percent thereafter as long as production remains above certain levels.

Kasich is expected to discuss tax reform, vocational education for middle schoolers and increased efforts to combat prescription drug and heroin abuse during his speech tonight, that starts at 7 p.m., in Medina.

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