Our mission in the Ohio Statehouse is to make our state the best possible place to live, establish a career, and raise a family. We’ve made great progress toward that goal over the past few years and 2013 was certainly no exception.

When I first arrived in the Senate in January 2011, our great state was in a very precarious position. In just the four prior years, Ohio had lost 400,000 jobs, we were headed on a crash-course toward a projected $8 billion budget shortfall, and our state’s savings account had been all been spent leaving a balance of just 89 cents.

We’ve come a long way since then. Today, our budget is back in balance, we’ve invested $1.5 billion into our state’s savings account, and our local businesses and hard working citizens have created more than 160,000 private sector jobs. In fact, the economic atmosphere in Ohio has come so far that Chief Executive Magazine, the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council, and Business Facilities Magazine have all named the Buckeye State as having the most improved business climate in the nation.  Just when the federal government’s credit rating was being downgraded, Ohio’s credit outlook was raised due to fiscally responsible policies and proper management.

In the Senate, we’ve taken steps to keep this economic momentum going by making careful investments in the future for all Ohioans. In 2013, I was proud to cosponsor Senate Bill 1, which authorizes a $25 million revolving loan program to help Ohioans pay for additional job training so they can start a new career or qualify for a promotion. Through “Supporting Achievement Everywhere,” we made the largest legislative investment in public education in more than a decade because every child in our great state deserves a great education.  We also laid out an aggressive infrastructure revitalization plan that is expected to create up to 65,000 new, Ohio jobs, which will make our state’s roads and bridges safer for the years to come.

We also instituted one of the largest single-year tax cuts in state history by returning $2.7 billion to hard working Ohioans in the form of a 10% income tax cut and a 50% tax cut on the first $250,000 of income for small businesses. Through this, we are making sure Ohioans keep more of what they earn while ensuring our small businesses have the capital to further invest in their facilities, employees, and communities.

I believe that active involvement in government by thoughtfully participating in elections is not only a fundamental right, but our duty as citizens. Preserving that right for the current and future generations is among our most solemn obligations as public servants. We need to do all we can to encourage our fellow Ohioans to be involved and engaged by assuring an accessible and accurate electoral process. That is why this year, I’ve introduced legislation aimed at making voting in Ohio simpler and more fair. Through these initiatives, we’ve taken from the ideas brought forward by both Republican and Democrat Elections Officials, Secretaries of State and fellow legislators in order to improve election administration. My goal is to reduce confusion and fortify our democratic system making certain that everyone has confidence in the integrity of our electoral process.  Likewise, I introduced legislation to bring online voter registration to Ohio which reduces fraud, increases efficiency and provides a more convenient alternative to paper registration.

I’ve also initiated a bi-partisan proposal to overhaul the process by which our state draws legislative districts to make sure no one party can hold an unfair advantage in deciding how our communities will be represented in the state and federal legislatures.

All too often, we hear only negative reports about how things work on the different levels of government. As an elected official, I’m regularly asked why people in Columbus and Washington can’t seem to work together more. As we begin 2014, I plan to continue one important initiative I started this past year called the “Civility Project.” This is a bipartisan group of legislators who meet regularly to discuss how people of different political viewpoints can better work together for the good of the people we represent. The goal is to work together to create a more civil dialogue resulting in greater trust and better relationships.  My sincere belief is that by doing so we will be able to stop fighting and start fixing.  The citizens of Ohio want their leaders to put politics aside and work together to solve problems.  My hope is that as we move forward in the legislative session, the work of this group will take root and that we will work together more not as political adversaries, but as leaders united around the goal of making our communities stronger.

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