Mon. 1:11 p.m.: Democrats want straight talk from governor

Democratic lawmakers from Trumbull and Mahoning counties said today they want straight talk on policy initiatives, not “flowery rhetoric” from Ohio Gov. John Kasich tonight when the Republican gives his State of the State address in Medina.

“I just want the governor to be real with Ohioans, to be real with people in the Mahoning Valley, about what has happened in the last year and what he expects to improve upon in the next year,” said Ohio Senate Minority Leader Joe Schiavoni of Canfield. “I hope it’s not flowery rhetoric, but specific ways to improve Ohio.”

Some of the topics legislators said they want covered include Ohio’s unemployment rate, which at 7.2 percent in 2013 was above the national average of 6.6 percent and the growing problem of opiate addiction and education.

Another matter they say they want covered is the tax on natural gas and oil wells.

State rep. Bob Hagan of Youngstown has introduced a bill that would increase the severance tax in Ohio to what he said is “a very conservative” 7.5 percent that would be split between a “legacy fund” to “make sure when the gas and oil runs out” there is money available to repair environmental damage caused by the industry, adding inspectors to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and for infrastructure in the communities impacted by the industry.

State Rep. Tom Letson of Warren said a “lion’s share” of the severance tax proceeds should be put back into those most impacted communities.

“We’re the ones that need it, we’re the ones that have it, it should be spent here,” said Letson.

Another proposal, back by the industry, would put the rate on a sliding scale – 1 percent in the first five years of production and 2 percent thereafter. When production at the well declines, the rate would drop back to 1 percent.

For more on the governor’s address and reaction to it, read Tuesday’s Tribune Chronicle.