Former Congressman Jim Renacci, of Ohio’s 16th district, has announced that he will chair a new organization aimed at advancing Ohio forward.
The group is called Ohio’s Future Foundation. Their goal, according to their announcement package is to launch “large scale and highly targeted voter education and advocacy campaign(s)” that are intended to marshall public support for their key goals; “vocational education, energy growth advocacy, municipal income tax reform, healthcare reform, and infrastructure funding.” These issues, though diverse, are all key areas that are desperately underserved in Ohio.
Skilled labor represents some of the most well paying and secure jobs in America that don’t require a college education. However, after years of diminishing vocational training in k-12 education (in favor of focusing on college attendance), there is a well documented “Skilled Labor Gap” in America. In states like Ohio, that skilled labor gap hits the hardest. Many state industry leaders feel note that a lack of skilled labor os one of the leading causes of Ohio’s failure to keep up with the economic growth of the country. Ohio’s Future Foundation aims to counter this with a twofold approach. Their first aim is to remove the stigma often associated with vocational training, presumably through a public education campaign. Secondly, they will attempt to make “career certificates…part of high school curriculum.”
Their policy towards energy is summed up as “all of the above… nuclear, coal, oil, gas, wind, and solar.” What’s surprising is that there is a specific emphasis on solar and wind. Though they clearly want a diversified energy portfolio for Ohio, it seems they want to assure individuals that they are interested in bipartisan solutions to Ohio’s energy needs. An often unreported story is that many oil and gas companies have incorporated more and more solar and wind projects into their industries as a means of “future proofing” themselves, diversified energy a reality.
The inclusion of a very specific “municipal income tax” as opposed to general “tax reform” is a surprising move that sets Ohio’s Future Foundation apart from other tax reform groups. Ohio has some of the most complicated local tax laws in the country. Every company has to file separate taxes with every single municipality in which it does business, no matter how small that business may be. While tax reform usually falls along party lines, focusing on “unifying” tax code might be the way to recontextualize it as a bipartisan issue.
While there might be hope for bipartisan tax reform, healthcare reform, one of Ohio’s Future Foundation’s key issues, will be a far tougher sell. They note “Medicaid Expansion will cost Ohio taxpayers 5.2 billion dollars a year by 2021.” Much of this has to do with the Affordable Care Act and the aging American population. While a plurality of the country agrees that something must be done before the full weight of the cost hits America, many are worried that change will only come once it has. However, the group would not make this a foundational issues if they didn’t already have some creative solutions for it.
The Infrastructure Report Card, in addition to giving America a D+ grade, noted that “driving on roads in need of repair in Ohio costs each driver $475 per year.” Infrastructure repair is one of those issues that everyone agrees, on the national stage, that it needs to be solved, but no on seems to be able to. Ohio’s Future Foundation notes that Ohio is the “main artery” for all of America’s infrastructure. Perhaps by taking the issue to the local level, the necessary change will find more fertile ground.
While their platform is certainly ambitious, Ohio’s Future Foundation is wasting no time getting to work. They have already announced that they will hold, both, healthcare and vocational education forums in the coming weeks. While these five issues give an idea of where the organization wants to focus; Renacci reveals that the true goal of the organization “is to support and empower businesses, grassroots and faithbased organizations, and individuals to
listen, learn and lead Ohio into a brighter future.”
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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio Star. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.