As we enter another legislative term in the Ohio House of Representatives, there are a lot of important issues on our plate that will be addressed in the coming two years. Last session brought a wide range of new reforms to spur job creation, encourage business growth and ensure greater government responsibility. We will immediately start tackling the next biennium budget, as well as looking at utility costs, taxes, regulatory burdens and ways to find greater efficiency in our government operations.
The topic of jobs remains front and center in the 130th General Assembly. In Washington County, the latest figures show that the unemployment rate plummeted to 5.5% as of the end of December. There is much more to do, but people are returning to work not just in Washington County but in many other counties across the state. More than 120,000 jobs have been created inside our borders since January 2011.
The Ohio General Assembly has also helped provide small family businesses and farms more certainty, now that the estate tax has been officially repealed. Regarding efficiency, state-run agencies are now subject to performance audits. Beyond that, reforms enacted in the areas of Medicaid, corrections, and transportation reduced taxpayer costs substantially.
Shale development and tax policy relating to that development are also on the front burner. The governor proposes to raise the severance tax in order to offer a modest income tax cut to taxpayers across the state. I am opposed to raising taxes on oil and gas producers because I believe we should not threaten or delay the fantastic progress we’re making economically in the shale areas. I believe this rising tide will lift all boats if given a bit more time to develop. Clearly our educational institutions have a fantastic opportunity in workforce development to produce the thousands of new employees the oil and gas industry will need as the shale play continues.
We are continuing to implement reforms in education and workforce development, to ensure greater accountability and to promote excellence at all levels. As Speaker William Batchelder said during his inaugural address, “Our students are the ones left to face the many challenges that we either have not yet overcome or have yet to encounter.” Our reforms will ensure that these students are properly-equipped with the skills necessary for success.