Chris Redfern (D), Kevin DeWine (R)

Party leaders offer opposing views on Town Hall Ohio

Buckeye Farm News

Ohio’s acceptance of more than $8 billion in federal stimulus money is “not only wise, it’s appropriate,” said Chris Redfern, chairman of the Ohio Democratic Party. But Kevin DeWine, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, disagreed, saying that it does not solve the state’s future budget shortfalls.

“The governor’s plan for the state of Ohio is to look to Washington, get on his knees and say ‘If you send it, we will spend it’. He is not advancing any substantive reform,” DeWine said.

The point-counterpoints were made during the first of a two-part Town Hall Ohio radio show that examined key issues with Ohio’s two major political parties. Redfern defended Gov. Ted Strickland’s decision to accept the stimulus funds and said Ohio’s tax code is flawed.

“It’s important to know how we got here. The income tax was reduced by 21 percent and the sales tax increased to make up for lost revenue,” he said. “We raised about 100 fees and the sales tax a couple of times. Anytime there’s a downturn in the economy, the sales tax falls off and you can’t keep up with revenue demands because consumers aren’t shopping.”

Redfern also called Republican gubernatorial candidate John Kasich’s proposal to eliminate the income tax “kooky” and “reckless.”

The two political leaders’ comments at times were testy but both said at the start of the broadcast that disagreeing is part of the political process.

“People say they don’t like the bitter bipartisanship and negative campaigning but at the end of the day I think Chris and I agree that stuff works in terms of moving voter opinion and changing the outcome of elections,” DeWine said.

Redfern said politicians are always trying to find ways to connect with voters and that often voters respond to the comparison and contrast of political candidates.

“If sending fruit baskets to every Ohioan worked, Kevin and I would start sending fruit baskets,” he said. “We’re in this business to get our message out in most appropriate and most effective manner and if sending flowers and fruit baskets works, we will do that.”

Both sides said the state’s economic woes will drive this year’s gubernatorial race.

Calling the economic outlook for Ohio “bleak,” DeWine said voters will not be asked to decide who is to blame for the state’s problems but whether Strickland’s actions are appropriate.

“Have his actions, the plans he has put in place, the things that he said he wants to do, do they merit another four years or is it time for us to change course and do something different,” he said. “I think that’s going to be the narrative of this gubernatorial race.”

The growing cost of Medicaid and education continues to be at the top of lawmakers’ concerns with both sides looking for ways to rein in costs, both DeWine and Redfern said. They both felt having eight-year term limits for lawmakers is ineffective and should be extended.

“All across the state farmers are gathered at coffee shops to talk about the day’s challenges, and we have fewer of those conversations taking place in Columbus with legislators,” Redfern said. “There’s a breakdown on the relationships, there’s hyperpartisan because of it, there’s self-focus, what is my next job rather than what’s my next issue. There are no stories to be told about the old because there are no legislators left who served during those days.”

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