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O’Brien, Blair praise bipartisanship

NILES — State Rep. Michael O’Brien said the level of bipartisanship in the General Assembly is so strong that it’s giving voice to Democrats who were ignored by the Republican majority for years.

When asked about the delay in approving the state budget, O’Brien, D-Warren, said, “It was because we wanted to have both parties comfortable with the outcome. It would have been approved sooner if the Republicans kept control of the process. That it took longer is a good sign. We weren’t completely satisfied, but we were generally pleased with the outcome.”

The state budget was signed into law July 18 after the Republican-controlled Legislature agreed to extend the June 30 deadline to pass the two-year budget.

O’Brien, in his third term in the Ohio House, and Gil Blair, D-Weathersfield, who started serving June 5, spoke Tuesday at the McKinley Auditorium in Niles as part of an Ohio Promise Town Hall. Ohio Democratic legislators have had about 30 such meetings throughout the state since July to discuss the state budget and bipartisan priorities.

The two legislators, who represent Trumbull County, spoke for about 80 minutes to a crowd of about 20 people.

Blair said bipartisanship has been vitally important to moving the state forward and the Mahoning Valley delegation, consisting of both Democrats and Republicans, has worked well together.

“When it comes to the legislators in the Mahoning Valley, we’re united to help with economic development and other priorities,” Blair said.

The state budget included money for Mahoning Valley projects, including $300,000 to the Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission to support Camp James A. Garfield in Ravenna and the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna, $1.3 million to support indigent defendants in Trumbull County and $2 million for projects on the Mahoning River.

The two Ohio House members also talked about the idling of the General Motors facility in Lordstown. The plant employed about 4,500 workers in 2016 and when it closed earlier this year, there were about 1,500 at the facility.

“It’s had a devastating effect on Trumbull County,” Blair said. “We are committed to finding solutions and bringing jobs back to Trumbull County. The ripple effect is huge. It’s impacted the supply chain and other businesses that depend on the plant. It’s imperative that we get something here for that facility.”

O’Brien said, “This breaks the community in half. Not a day goes by where we don’t address these issues.”

Blair said he’d “like to see a GM product come to Lordstown, but” the proposed Lordstown Motors Corp. “has potential, and we’d welcome them.”

dskolnick@tribtoday.com