LIMA — Ohio Senate President Keith Faber said Wednesday he is proud of the changes made in Ohio this past year through the Legislature and budget.
Faber, R-Celina, is finishing his first year as Senate president. His first priority in 2013 was workforce development and training for the underemployed. Wednesday, in an interview with The Lima News, he said it’s still his priority, because the state’s unemployment rate is too high.
“As I often say, we’re doing better, but better isn’t good enough,” Faber said.
The Legislature passed a budget with a $2.7 billion tax cut, improved the state’s rainy day fund from 84 cents to $1.5 billion and eliminated the estate tax.
“We passed a budget that did what we said we were going to do,” Faber said. “Ohio is rated ninth in job creation in the country right now, which isn’t a bad place to be.”
Ohio is becoming a more business-friendly state, Faber said, with changes made this year to the tax code and regulations.
However, Ohio’s unemployment rate remains too high, Faber said.
“It’s not where we need to be, but 170,000 jobs created by the private sector a year is better than 100,000 jobs a year we were losing,” Faber said.
The state’s workforce development job board has 100,000 jobs that are going unfilled, Faber said, and he hears from employers in his own district that they have positions going unfilled because they can’t find trained workers.
Faber is hearing about pilot development programs pairing universities and private employers. He said workforce development will continue to be a priority for him.
Faber also is targeting higher education; he’s begun talking with university presidents about not just freezing tuition, but finding a way to cut it.
“I want a 10 percent cut, but I’d settle for 5 percent,” Faber said.
After serving in Senate leadership, Faber said he’s learned that being No. 1 in the Senate is much different than being No. 2 or No. 3. He travels extensively in Ohio, and holds roundtables to gain diverse perspectives among different geographies and interests, he said, and he learns about ways the Legislature can make a difference.
For example, Faber said he learned about an issue with Ohio medical students not being able to find residencies in Ohio. Faber said he’s now investigating a program that would fund more residencies with stipulations that new doctors remain in Ohio attending to underserved populations.
He also learned when the Legislature can fix a mistake, he said. An original law passed on teacher evaluations was too onerous, he said, and so the Senate is trying to right the wrong with a new bill.