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Democrats Respond to State of the State

By Nickie J. Antonio
April 10, 2024
The Democratic Standard

This week, Ohio Democrats held a joint press conference to respond to Governor Mike DeWine’s State of the State address.

Read Leader Antonio's full remarks below or watch the full response here

"Good afternoon, and thank you all for joining us today. We heard a lot in the governor’s State of the State address today.

Certainly, the governor touched on programs and issues we can support as many of them focused on lifting up and supporting our youngest Ohioans and their future. I’d like to believe that the aspirational, ‘Ohio is the heart of it all’ were true. However, it is disingenuous to use that slogan to welcome people while the majority contradicts the sentiment with legislation that would deny the civil rights of marginalized Ohioans. Last year’s three statewide elections proved how out of step majority Republicans are with everyday Ohioans. We can and we must do better.

Last year’s election results in the three different statewide initiatives provided evidence of how out-of-step Republicans in our state government are with everyday Ohioans. Everyday Ohioans support access to; first and foremost, our democratic process, reproductive health care that includes abortion access, and the legal adult use of marijuana. I am proud of the work led by Senator Hicks-Hudson on expungement for those with minor possession charges. We need to finish that work. Democrats will continue to listen to the voices of the people in upholding their civil right to self-determination.

The 135th General Assembly has been labeled as one of the most unproductive legislative sessions in Ohio history due to Republican infighting, at a time when they enjoy an artificial supermajority as a result of gerrymandered districts,  delivering productive policies does not seem to be a priority. The people of the state of Ohio deserve better.

Due to the ongoing proxy war for Speaker of the House, the legislature’s ability to get things done this year and last has been significantly hampered, Meanwhile, the people of Ohio wait for proactive policy decisions,  for the legislature to “do something” on the housing shortage, increasing teacher pay, addressing the child care crisis and property tax relief to be to name just a few. Senator Kent Smith has been a leader in communicating this state of the state legislature through his social media posts to make sure Ohioans stay informed “In Case They Missed It.”

The obsession with promoting right-wing culture war issues has mired the legislature in debates that would take away rights rather than expand them; contentious debates over the rights of trans youth and parents, policy debates that would marginalize rather than welcome and include the diverse people of our state, so much time wasted, serving as a distraction rather than addressing the real problems facing everyday, hard-working Ohioans. 

For the remainder of the General Assembly, Ohio Democrats will continue to be staunch advocates for all Ohioans, fighting for a state that embraces freedom, opportunity, and dignity. We remain committed to making Ohio the best place to live, work, and raise a family. 

But to do that, we must attract and keep our young people here. Sadly, one of Ohio’s greatest exports is college graduates – young people who come here for our incredible higher education institutions, and then promptly leave after graduation. So how do we keep them here?

By creating an Ohio that works for everyone, creating opportunities that put the success of our people first.

Affordable Housing
Ohio’s housing crisis continues to worsen. 25% of all Ohio renters spend at least half their income on housing, and there is a statewide shortage of over a quarter of a million homes. Members of our caucus, led by Senator Herschel Craig, are working in a bipartisan effort to develop policies so that everyone in the state has access to safe, decent, and affordable housing including providing relief from the exponential increases in property taxes to those most in need. I appreciate the leadership of Senator BillDeMora on this issue. We need to complete the work and pass proactive legislation. We must make the necessary improvements and increase Homestead Act eligibility to help our seniors continue to afford to stay in their homes.

Affordable, Available, Quality Child Care
In order to participate in the global economy, we need to provide child care to our workforce. Affordable child care lets parents work. According to a poll done in 2023 by the First 5 Years Fund, nearly 59% of parents who are not working full time would do so if child care was more affordable. A recent report from Policy Matters showed that Ohio now has the lowest eligibility for publicly funded child care in the country for kids 0 to 5. This is unacceptable. We need to raise the income threshold for publicly funded child care to make more families eligible. Look, if the majority could raise the eligibility threshold for the wealthy for school vouchers to 450% FPL, then certainly, we can qualify families of low- and middle-income levels to increase their access to child care and get folks to work! 

If we are to increase the eligibility of quality child care and access to early childhood programs, and education, as well as care for children with special needs, then we must also provide livable wages for childcare workers. It is up to us to make greater investments in our childcare system today to prepare our youngest for school and to get Ohioans back to work. Our children are our most precious Ohioans – we need to invest today for their bright future tomorrow.

Education for All
The Ohio Constitution requires the Ohio Legislature to fund a thorough and efficient public education system that serves the common good. Setting our children up for success also means that they have access to a quality education. We believe quality education should be available for all of Ohio’s children, not just the wealthy and well-connected. 

We are now giving nearly $1 billion to private schools that are not held to the same standards as our public schools. These schools can arbitrarily choose their students, and deny certain students without consequence. As Leader Russo and I said last year, Democrats have been introducing parity legislation for years. I say again – the legislature needs to enact measures of transparency and accountability for these subsidy recipients that are equal to the scrutiny required of Ohio’s public schools. It's the fair thing to do.

We recently lost a legendary civil rights activist, and legislative leader, who dedicated her life to social justice and public education. CJ Prentiss was quoted decades ago when she served in the legislature, saying, “We need more legislators who believe in public schools and want to work to improve schools. We have many legislators who want to dismantle and privatize education.” She was saying this in the 1990s, but it could have been said today.

Our Caucus members are committed to upholding our constitutional responsibility to provide quality public education for all of Ohio’s children, in every community: urban, rural or suburban. I applaud the leadership of Senator Catherine Ingram on this work. We have made great strides in implementing the Fair School Funding Plan, but we are not yet at the funding levels we should be, more work needs to be done. There are still gaps in staffing and resources that could be addressed by fully funding schools and providing the services necessary to support all student success. We must do more to support public schools, students, and teachers. We could begin by raising starting salaries for teachers in Ohio to $50,000 up from the current $40,000 which is well below national levels.

Capital Budget/OTSCIF
We have been hearing from Ohioans across the state regarding the One-Time Strategic Community Investment Fund. Democrats' goal is to distribute the investments equitably and fairly across communities of all sizes for the most state-wide impact leading to economic growth, vitality, and innovation. We especially hope to elevate small and minority-owned businesses, something Senator Sykes has championed, as well as educational offerings K-12, higher education, arts & culture institutions and non-profit partners providing front-line support and services to those in need. We are hopeful that the bipartisan and bicameral process will succeed in providing significant investments in our communities across the state with the potential for statewide impact that can create long-term growth and sustainability. 

Democrats will continue to advocate and fight for the dignity of Ohio workers and families this year by advancing those policies, issues, and budget items where we can find common ground with the Governor, our colleagues across the aisle, and across chambers, whenever possible. We will continue to stand up and speak out against hate intolerance and bigotry directed at any marginalized groups or individuals. We are dedicated to creating an inclusive, welcoming state with safe and thriving communities by investing in accessible, affordable quality child care, affordable housing, good-paying jobs, and equal access to quality education to ensure families have the support they need to succeed. We are committed to making Ohio into a state where the people’s freedom and dignity are respected. This is the path to creating an Ohio that we can be proud of - truly a state of opportunity for all. I’ll now hand it over to Leader Russo – she will outline additional Democratic priorities to improve the state of the state of Ohio."