COLUMBUS: Democratic state lawmakers pushed an economic agenda Wednesday that included bills to increase Ohio’s minimum wage, provide paid family and medical leave, and promote equal pay for women.
The House and Senate’s Democratic leaders told reporters at a Statehouse news conference that they’re focused on bolstering Ohio’s economy and its middle class, saying too many residents feel like they are just getting by. They suggested their Republican counterparts are more concerned with politics, though spokesmen for the GOP caucuses disputed that notion.
“We need to refocus state government’s efforts away from chasing political headlines in national campaigns to policy solutions that create a path toward economic stability for working people in our state,” said House Minority Leader Fred Strahorn, a Dayton Democrat. The comment was an apparent dig at Republican Gov. John Kasich, who has been touting the state’s economy in his campaign for president.
Republicans highlight their support of reducing the state’s income tax, along with policies they say have helped to create jobs. Ohio’s unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in December, below the national rate of 5 percent.
“This is more of the same, tired, class warfare rhetoric Democrats like to roll out every election year,” said John Fortney, a spokesman for the Senate Republicans.
It’s unclear how many of the Democrats’ priorities could be accomplished in the remaining year of the legislative session. The GOP holds steep majorities in the House and Senate.
Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni, a Boardman Democrat, said the numbers are what they are.
“But what you need to do is you need to drive issues that are important to people,” he said. “And you have to continue to drive those issues until someone from the majority either decides to work on it with you or the public puts so much pressure that it’s forced to pass.”