By Kevin Kelley
Anyone who has even remotely been following state Rep. Nan Baker’s political career since entering the Ohio House in 2009 should not have trouble guessing what the theme of her re-election campaign will be.
“It has not changed,” Baker said of her campaign theme. “‘It’s all about jobs.’”
Baker, who is seeking her fourth term representing the Westshore in the Ohio House, will kick-off her re-election campaign with a fundraiser in Rocky River March 21. If re-elected, her next term would be her last in the Ohio House due to term limits. She faces no opposition in the May 6 Republican primary.
Democrat Todd LeVeck, a teacher with the Cleveland City Schools, is the only other candidate who filed to be on the primary ballot. Feb. 24 is the deadline for write-in candidates to file for the primary election. Independent candidates can file until May 5 to be on the Nov. 4 general election ballot.
Making Ohio more business-friendly, and more likely to attract jobs, has been the emphasis of the Westlake Republican’s Columbus tenure.
The former Westlake City Councilwoman points to three bills she is currently backing that are examples of her focus on economic issues. Funded by casino fees, the Career Exploration Internship bill would pay businesses up to $5,000 to offer internships to high school students who have an interest in that business’s field. Baker said the program will raise the level of consideration high school students give to selecting a college major and thus prevent them from wasting time and money studying a discipline they later dislike.
The second bill would require Ohio public school districts to promote the state’s “Ohio Means Jobs” website, either in a district newsletter on through the Internet. Again, Baker said, the goal would be to improve career planning of Ohioans and, through the website, assist them in finding jobs and educational opportunities.
A third bill backed by the District 16 representative would require a physician to obtain a signed consent form from a parent or guardian before prescribing a controlled substance, such as a pain killer, to a minor. The goal of this legislation, Baker said, is to reduce drug addiction, which often starts with abuse of prescription medication. During committee hearings last year, several Ohio business owners testified that Ohioans’ inability to pass pre-employment drug tests is the top concern they have in hiring employees, the former Westlake City Schools Board of Education member reported.
LeVeck, a Westlake resident, said he intends to target Baker and Ohio Republicans on the issue of education, specifically a failure to improve the way public schools are funded. Baker countered that the most recent biennial budget increased public school funding several hundred million dollars. No school district received less state money than the previous year, she said, adding that, in the Westshore, every district received an increase in state money. That increase, though, came after several years of cuts.
Baker also said that urban districts, such as Cleveland, receive significantly more state money per pupil that most suburban districts.
“We’re not only paying for our own schools but we’re making up for other districts that don’t have the property values to support that,” Baker told West Life.
LeVeck also argued that the Republican-led state government has cut funding for municipalities and eliminated the estate tax, which many suburbs had used to help balance their budgets.
Baker said the state was forced to cut its budget to address a deficit of several billion dollars. Local governments, she said, needed to do what Ohioans had done – tighten their belts.
“We asked our cities to do what everybody else has done,” Baker said.
LeVeck criticized Baker for not delivering much to the Westshore in terms of state dollars. Baker countered that no capital bills were passed by the statehouse in recent years due to the cutbacks. She expects a capital bill will be passed this year in which the Westshore will receive funds.
Baker acknowledges that the elimination of the estate tax hurt many municipalities. But it was an unfair tax that most other states did not impose, she explained.
Increasing taxes instead of cutting the state budget would have discouraged businesses from coming to or staying in Ohio, Baker argued.
“The steps that we took to help Ohio are working,” she said.