Ohio used to be the place people moved to get a good job, send their kids to good schools and save to buy a home or retire with security. Our state’s promise was a ticket to the middle class and the opportunity to pursue the American Dream. Now for too many Ohioans, that promise is fading as more people move away in search of better lives and brighter futures.

People are putting in longer hours and working harder than ever, but take home less at the end of the day. Ohioans are uncertain about the future — too many families live paycheck to paycheck, and our seniors and elderly neighbors worry about the high cost of their medication. Working people feel like the system is rigged against them, and after a decade of broken promises, they’re finding it harder to get ahead.

We need to correct course to get Ohio back on track. That’s why we introduced the Ohio Promise, our Democratic framework to invest in the future, grow good paying jobs and build an economy that works for everyone — not just those at the top. We owe it to working people, children, seniors and businesses to keep our promise by working together to give people the tools they need to live a better life.

Already, in my first 100 days as House minority leader, we’ve seen what renewing the Ohio promise means in practice. In the first 100 days of new leadership at the Statehouse, we have delivered results for the people we represent.

During the state transportation budget debate, House Democrats were successful at growing the Earned Income Tax Credit for working families, directing more support to local communities, and increasing support for public transportation in Ohio to a historic level.

The House version of the state budget, too, brought movement to long-held Democratic priorities that had been shelved the past decade. We shrunk a billion-dollar tax loophole that amounted to little more than a giveaway for the wealthiest few income earners. We targeted tax relief for working and middle-class Ohioans while directing more resources to our state’s children and families. We increased worker protection inspections by the state and even targeted extra funding to higher education to reduce the cost of college for students and families.

We didn’t get everything we wanted, and neither did majority-party Republicans. But that’s what makes government work for the people — accountability to the people we represent and a willingness to compromise. And in this era of hyper-partisan politics, it’s even more important that we focus on delivering results for the people we represent.

People in Ohio look at Washington, D.C., and know that it’s broken. Extreme politicians cater to lobbyists, donors and political parties instead of voters. Yelling and bickering on cable news shows have taken the place of consensus-building and policymaking.

That’s what makes the work that we’ve done in past 100 days in Ohio even more important. Our coalition approach of working with Republicans to deliver real results for people stands in stark contrast to the broken system that plagues our nation. We still have our fights. But our fights are overshadowed by our responsibility to build a better future for all Ohioans, a better future where we, as elected officials, keep our promise that we work for you.

That’s why success in our first 100 days of new leadership at the Statehouse doesn’t end with budget bills. We are committed to working together throughout this General Assembly session to find common sense solutions to the most important issues facing everyday Ohioans.

To that end, Republican Speaker Larry Householder and I recently announced the priority bills in the House, a first in the Ohio legislature for this level of input from the minority party. From protecting Lake Erie and strengthening families through better foster care laws to giving workers the training opportunity they need to compete for the best jobs, our 15 priorities are shared — not just between the political parties in Columbus but by the people of our state.

I am proud of our work. It has been a refreshing and impactful, if not abrupt, transformation away from business as usual in Columbus in favor of a new approach that puts people first. But I’m also not naïve.

We will have disagreements along the way. Some elected officials will fall back into their old habits at times. But one thing is clear to me as the leader of the most diverse caucus in our state’s great history: Our differences are what make us stronger, and together, we can work to restore our state’s fundamental promise of opportunity, the belief that if you work hard, you can get ahead.

Now is the time to get to work in shaping the next 100 days, and in shaping Ohio’s future, one with better jobs, better lives and brighter futures for all Ohioans.

 

Sykes, an Akron Democrat, is the Ohio House minority leader. This is her 100th day leading the 38-member caucus.