Reflecting On Our Efforts To Create Opportunities For Ohioans In 2015
A Guest Column by State Senator Troy Balderson
January 22, 2016
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Another busy year marked by new efforts to create jobs and grow small businesses, lower taxes and create opportunities for all Ohioans. In 2015, we were able to continue our efforts to turn Ohio around, making this state an exceptional place to live, work and raise a family. Below, I would like to highlight a few major accomplishments from this past year. 
Supporting Jobs and Opportunities. Since January of 2011, Ohio businesses have created more than 385,000 new private sector jobs and our state's unemployment has dropped from 9.2 percent to 4.4 percent, according to the most recent report from the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services. I have also been working with my colleagues and partners in regional economic development to promote our region to businesses seeking new expansion opportunities. In November, I was pleased to join state and regional economic development leaders to praise the announcement by Italy-based Sofidel Group, which plans to locate a new manufacturing facility in Circleville, Ohio. The selection was the result of collaborative efforts between local leaders and community stakeholders and promises to bring new jobs and investment to the community. Furthermore, Encore Industries, Inc. located in Guernsey county created 35 jobs this year. As well as SRI Ohio, Inc. located in Fairfield county created 50 additional jobs in 2015.  Creating new opportunities for Ohio’s job seekers, business owners and employers will continue to be a top priority throughout 2016. 
Balancing the Budget. Signed into law last summer, our budget was guided by a few basic common-sense principles: to deliver a balanced, sustainable budget that invests in Ohio’s priorities, increasing the competitiveness of the state’s tax rate, saving for emergencies and putting money back into the pockets of the those who earned it. The state’s two-year operating budget is the single most important piece of legislation for the operation of our state. Ohio’s budget reflects input received from thousands of Ohioans, resulting in a unified plan to keep our economy growing and to provide new opportunities for all. The budget included funding for women’s healthcare initiatives and new funding for the Ohio Appalachian Teaching Fellowship Pilot Program, which recruits and trains aspiring teachers and provides unique opportunities for recent graduates who commit to teaching for at least four years in an Appalachian county. I am excited to see this fellowship grow and improve the ability to recruit teachers in our Appalachian counties. 

Last year, we also funded the Appalachian New Economy Partnership, which is spearheading efforts to establish a network of programs and services that support and expand venture capital investment in our region. This partnership provides an innovation platform for developing technology and attracting new companies.

Lowering the Tax Burden. By reducing the income tax rate by 6.3 percent, the lowest level since 1982, we are saving taxpayers more than $1.3 billion over the two-year period. This amounts to $5 billion in overall tax cuts since 2011. Our continued commitment to lowering Ohio’s tax burden allows Ohioans to invest more and spend their money as they choose. Additionally, I voted to continue the 75 percent income tax deduction on the first $250,000 of income allowing Ohio’s small businesses to reinvest, buy new equipment and hire new workers.
Supporting Agritourism. A new effort recently passed the Senate to help remove regulatory and liability barriers that restrict the growth of small businesses in Ohio's agritourism industry. Agriculture contributes more than $100 billion to the state's economy every year and this legislation helps to protect our No. 1 industry, ensuring that it continues to grow and thrive.
Protecting Ohioans from Predators. I recently sponsored legislation, which passed the Senate in December, to help protect children from online sexual solicitation. In the past, offenders who failed to fully report their online accounts have used email addresses and social media to contact minors. My legislation makes such an omission a punishable criminal offense, further protecting children from the dangers of online predation.

For far too long victims of sexual violence were denied justice because of bureaucracy and a lack of cooperation between state and local authorities. In 2015, the Senate passed legislation paving the way for a DNA testing initiative that is helping solve cold cases across Ohio, bringing justice for the victims and getting violent predators off our streets. This effort has resulted in more than 3,300 positive matches for previously backlogged DNA kits tested so far. 

Preventing Opiate Abuse & Saving Lives. By providing doctors and pharmacists access to the state’s drug monitoring program, healthcare professionals can quickly intervene when they see warning signs of opiate addiction. This allows more Ohioans to get the help they need and prevent drug overdose deaths. Additionally, wider availability to lifesaving drugs by first responders is helping to save lives here in our community so that addicts have an opportunity to get the necessary treatment. These programs help to create stronger communities and provide support for those who desperately need treatment.

I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to create new opportunities that allow Ohioans to keep more of their hard-earned money, support small businesses in our community and advocate for adequate support for our schools. I am committed to making our state an even better place to live, work and raise a family. Please feel free to contact my office by phone at (614) 466-8076 or by e-mail at May your new year be filled with many blessings!

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