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Opinion: Ohio voters can choose job creation or continued stagnation

October 31, 2020

Kathy Wyenandt Opinion contributor

Ohio hasn’t had a robust job economy since the 1970s, when manufacturing jobs peaked. Over the decades, labor unions were broken, manufacturing offshored while international competition increased, and automation eliminated good manufacturing jobs that sustained our parents and grandparents.

Voters have two clear choices this November.

We can remain a Rust Belt tragedy where people work multiple jobs while earning minimum wage. These jobs qualify them and their children for subsidized lunches, food stamps, and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) programs for which taxpayers foot the bill.

Or, we can choose leaders to create the jobs of the future, good-paying jobs that fully support a family of four – about $67,000 per year – and in the process support a clean energy policy that will create millions of green, sustainable jobs, cleanse the planet and improve the health of millions.

My opponent supports a Big Oil energy coalition between Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia called the Appalachian Petrochemical Hub, ostensibly to create jobs in Ohio River Valley. It’s turned out to be a financial boondoggle and an environmental disaster.

JobsOhio, a private, state-funded initiative, is tasked to create jobs for Ohio workers. It invested $70 million in taxpayer money on a Monaca, Pa., “cracker,” or natural gas fracking plant, and a second plant planned for Belmont County, Ohio. This is not “free” money. JobsOhio receives its funding from state liquor sales tax revenue. The grants were supposed to create thousands of jobs while the plants were under construction and hundreds of permanent jobs in Ohio afterward.

Yes, hundreds.

Seventy million dollars is a phenomenal amount of money for an industry that not only pollutes the world, but creates so few Ohio jobs.

While agencies like JobsOhio can argue that its jobs will spur residual growth in cities, I beg to differ. Who wants to live, work and play where the water and air are poisoned, and your health is compromised?

My opponent not only supports the Appalachian Petrochemical Hub, he supported HB 6, the $1.3 billion nuclear energy bailout bill. He accepted $13,500 in campaign contributions from FirstEnergy PAC from 2019 to 2020. The timing of $3,500 of it and other contributions pledged to politicians this July indicates a pay-to-play culture in the statehouse that trades votes for campaign contributions.Get the Coronavirus Watch newsletter in your inbox.

FirstEnergy Solutions, of course, is the bankrupt nuclear power company now operating under the name of Energy Harbor. FirstEnergy is commonly recognized as “Company A” in the recent FBI indictment related to HB 6.

The Enquirer has reported that the timing of $158,000 in FirstEnergy PAC donations to statehouse politicians two months ago was the second-highest sum it had donated in any month since 1995. More than half of those donations went to lawmakers who voted “yes” on HB 6. Also, on the day HB 6 became law in October 2019, FirstEnergy PAC donated nearly $53,000 to House Republicans’ campaign funds and other GOP accounts. 

Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder walks out of U.S. District Court after charges that he participated in a racketeering conspiracy in Columbus, Ohio on July 21, 2020. Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder and four colleagues were arrested by federal officials Tuesday as part of a bribery investigation involving the state’s $1 billion nuclear plant bailout and Householder’s maneuverings to secure support to lead the legislative chamber. [Kyle Robertson/Dispatch]

HB 6 is at the center of the FBI’s recent arrest of former Speaker of the House Larry Householder and four others for an alleged $60 million bribery scheme.

In Ohio today, we have a supermajority political machine where lawmakers create laws and policy for themselves and their reelection campaigns.

I pledge, as your new Ohio state senator, to help create laws and policies that improve the lives of Ohio families, like good jobs, equitable education, and affordable health care. Let’s get rid of a system that allows politicians to line their pockets with dark money that ensures their seats at the power table – while ignoring the needs of the people.

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