Rick Smith
Democrat for Ohio State
Representative District 54
SW Warren Co. & Middletown (part)

Issues:  Focusing on What is Important to Our Community

I have two goals in my campaign.  Of course, the first is to win, so that I can make the changes I feel the citizens of Ohio desperately want and need.  The second is to raise awareness of the lack of Respect, Reason, and Fairness exhibited by State government today which is leading to divisiveness, misguided policy, and undue burdens on average citizens.

See the Dayton Daily News' Voter Guide or the Cincinnati Enquirer's Voter Guide to compare my positions with my opponent's on important issues.

You can also follow an open discussion I am having with the public on my Facebook page.

Redistricting Reform

Every year it seems that political dialog gets more negative and more divisive.  This won’t change until we get rid of the institutional barriers to politicians working to find common ground and Respect for one another.  See my short video on gerrymandering.

If we change the way we draw legislative districts in Ohio, a different type of person will run, win, and govern this state.  If we have competitive districts, then politicians will have to run strong campaigns in both the Primary and General Elections.  Today in most of the State House districts in Ohio the candidate only needs to win the primary...and in order to do that, you have to appeal to the most partisan of voters.  With competitive General Elections, politicians will have to appeal to Independents and the moderate wing of the other party.  The type of person who can do this will also be the best kind of legislator - someone who will work across the aisle to find common ground.

My opponent spent about $40,000 to win his Primary.  However, now he feels he can just "phone it in" for the General Election.  From early June through mid October, he has spent a total of just $55 to communicate with voters.  I urge you to get out to vote and tell him that it is not acceptable to not work for your vote!

Campaign Finance Reform

I feel that money is a terribly corrosive force in politics today.  The Supreme Court has ruled that money is “speech”.  However, we can make a few simple changes to limit the influence of campaign contributions and help voters get more Respect:

  1. Lower the campaign contribution limits.  Today someone can give $24,000 to a candidate - $12,000 in the Primary and $12,000 in the General Election.  You can't tell me this doesn't buy influence!  We should lower contribution limits to that in Federal Elections - $2,600 in the Primary and $2,600 in the General. 
  2. Strengthen conflict of interest laws.  If you regulate an industry through your committee assignments (e.g., education or utilities), then you should not be allowed to accept contributions from those industries.  Contributions from people employed by those industries should also be limited.

Transparency in Government

Government works best when citizens can see what is going on and voice their opinion about changes they would like to make.  Sadly, the current Legislature and Governor have taken a giant step backwards when it comes to transparency.  The new private economic development arm of the state, JobsOhio is using hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money and is totally unaccountable you and me.  This is just not Reasonable!

I also believe that it is important that people understand what value they are getting from government.  Government is the way we collectively purchase services.  The amount of taxes we pay is less important than the VALUE that we get for our tax dollar!  The problem today is that most people don't feel like they are getting that value.

I would like to see every State and County agency list what value they are providing and how much it costs to produce a unit of that value (e.g., it costs $x to train someone for a new career, or $y/mile to maintain our highways).  People would know what they are paying for, and we can have an intelligent discussion about whether the price we are paying is too high.  

Growing Jobs

Tax incentives are just one small part of the decisions people make to start and grow businesses in Ohio.  Business-friendly policies and investments in education and infrastructure are more important. Businesses want to know that they are in a location where they can easily find a trained workforce, where their employees will enjoy living, and where they can move people and goods easily. 

Infrastructure and transit investments create jobs today and make our communities better for tomorrow.  We should be investing in our technical schools and community colleges - they are training the high-skilled workers that businesses need today.  We should also be investing for the educational long-haul.  Studies have shown that the money spent on universal preschool and full-day kindergarten pay society back many times over.  Kids who are ready to start the first grade are less likely to fall behind, less likely to get in trouble with the law, more likely to graduate, and less likely to need remedial classes when they get to college (today 40% of incoming freshman in Ohio need remedial classes).

Funding Local Schools and Services

The government most important to people is the one that is closest to them – local school districts, municipalities, villages, and townships.  The Republican-led State government has balanced its books by reducing funding for local services.  We have to bring Reason reverse this trend. 

Governor Kasich and other Republican leadership have been telling you a lie.  They have said that the Democrats almost bankrupted the state by creating a $8 billion budget deficit.  THIS IS NOT TRUE!  The budgets Democrat Ted Strickland managed (passed by the Democratic House and Republican Senate) were balanced...they had to be according to state law.  In fact, the last Ted Strickland budget actually provided a very large surplus!

When Governor Kasich first took office, there was a preliminary forecast of an $8 billion projected deficit over the next 2 years.  By the time the budget bill was being developed, that estimate fell to $6 billion.  Now $6 billion is a number, and tough decisions had to be made, but other governors (including Ted Strickland) faced similar situations.  The projected deficit was mainly caused by the cumulative effect of income tax cuts passed in 2005, and not Democratic policy.

So, what did Governor Kasich do to plug the budget hole?  He reduced taxes even more on the wealthy (additional income tax cuts and elimination of the Estate Tax).  To pay for it, he raised sales taxes, cigarette taxes, and property taxes - the taxes that fall mostly to you and I.  He also devastated school and local community budgets. 

If you wonder why potholes are not being fixed fast enough, why there is not enough money to fight the heroin epidemic, why your daughter now has to pay a participation fee to play school sports, or why your school is asking for another property tax levy, you need to look no further than the policies of the current Governor and Legislature.

Supporting the Middle Class

The tax policies of the Legislature and Governor John Kasich have decreased taxes for those who are better off and increased relative taxes on the poor and middle class (see above).  It is simply not Fair to burden those who have suffered the most during the Great Recession in this way. 

Today, the less you make, the MORE you pay in state and local taxes as a percentage of your income.  This is what we call a "regressive" taxing system, and it is just not fair.  The wealthy and corporations are just not paying their fair share.

Today the wealthiest Ohioans (those in the top 1%) are paying $20,000 less in taxes every year than they were in 2005.  However, the bottom 60% (those making $54,000/year or less) are actually paying MORE in state and local taxes than they were in 2005.  See the study by Policy Matters Ohio for more details.  We need to reverse these tax changes and make Ohio's tax system progressive again.

Access to Women’s Health

A woman’s right to an abortion was established by the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.  Recent laws passed by the Legislature have tried to get around the Supreme Court to reduce women’s access to abortion and basic health services.  These laws interfere with the relationship between a woman and her doctor, and place unnecessary regulatory burdens on abortion clinics.  What they are doing is not Fair to women and won’t reduce the number of abortions.  Do we really want to go back to the 1960s when many abortions were unsafe, killing and injuring thousands of women?

We need to change the way we talk about this issue.  The two sides will never agree on whether abortion should be legal.  But what we can agree on is that fewer abortions is better.  The only way to truly reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies - let's work on that together.  We can also work together to support women who want to have their babies but don't want to drop out of school or don't know about adoption options.

The abortion debate also crowds out discussions about devastating effects of premature births and the high infant mortality rate in Southwest Ohio.  We need to make the small investment necessary to ensure that women have the physical and emotional support before, during, and after pregnancy to support the health of both mother and child.  This is not only the moral thing to do, but it is the fiscally prudent thing to do.  Premature birth costs families and society a tremendous amount.  The lifetime costs of a single premature birth (from neonatal care to managing the disabilities that often result) can run into the millions.

Fairness in the Workplace

Ohioans soundly rejected Senate Bill 5, which limited the right of public workers to negotiate with their employers on any issue other than basic pay.  Senate Bill 5 would have prevented school teachers from negotiating on class sizes, firefighters from negotiating on how may firemen were on a truck, and police from negotiating on the equipment and personnel that would keep them safe.  Senate Bill 5 was not Fair to public workers and not in the interest of the public. 

Now the Legislature is trying to pass new laws to limit workers’ rights.  These "Right-to-Work" laws say that not only does someone not have to join the union in their place of employment, but he/she doesn't have to pay dues to cover the cost of the bargaining and workplace training and safety work that the union does for them.  These laws reduce the power of working people and will lead to less safe workplaces and lower wages for everyone.  The Economic Policy Institute did a study that showed that Right-to-Work states had lower wages, less health insurance coverage, and fewer benefits across the board, not just for unionized workers.  These laws do NOTHING to improve the economic climate of these states.

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