YELLOW CREEK - State Representative Nick Barborak (D-5) paid a visit to Yellow Creek Township on Tuesday evening, sitting in on an hour-long town hall meeting before the township trustees' regular meeting at 6 p.m.
Barborak gave a brief summary of his personal biography and work experience before opening the floor to questions, which ranged from changes in the Ohio tax code to a proposed "stand your ground" law and the expansion of Medicaid.
A common theme in Barborak's statements was what he identified as an unfortunate shifting of responsibility for government services from the federal to the state, and from the state to municipalities. "The trend that we're seeing is to place more and more of the burden of government onto the local taxpayers and less on the state," he said.
State Representative Nick Barborak (right) attended a town hall meeting at Yellow Creek Township on Tuesday evening before a trustees’ meeting. Sitting in are (from left) trustees Dave Boyd and Kenny Biacco, fiscal officer Deborah Lyle and trustee Larry Brewer. (Photo by Richard Sberna)
"Amen!" replied township resident Tom DeJane, who sat in on the meeting. "And we can't handle it."
Barborak said the state sales tax, inaugurated during the Great Depression, was negotiated between representatives in Columbus and municipal mayors and trustees, with the understanding that a portion of proceeds from the tax would go to local governments for needs like road maintenance and employee salaries. "It's the only way they were able to pass a sales tax in the state of Ohio, and from the 1930s on through 2010, that commitment was honored by every general assembly in the state," he said.
Barborak underlined cuts to the this funding as the source of this shift, and was pessimistic about the long-term survival of LGF at all. "So we're seeing additional cuts, additional cuts. There's an expectation that that fund's probably going to go away at some point," he said. Barborak criticized the new state budget signed into law by Governor John Kasich in June that includes no corresponding cut in the sales tax, but rather, an increase of a quarter-percent that takes effect Sept. 1.
"At the same time, we're cutting funding for your local communities," Barborak said. "So many of the challenges your local representatives are facing have to do with resources, with lack of funding."
The senator also blasted the budget for being the largest in state history, at $62 billion. The tax cuts touted by Gov. Kasich will predominately benefit top earners in Ohio as well, he asserted. Barborak did approve of the new budget's cuts in business taxes, however, saying it will make the state more attractive to businesses that are considering locating to Ohio.
"I think everybody has the same goal. We want to create jobs, we want to make our environment healthy for job growth and for businesses to come in," Barborak said. The best way to do that, he says, is to ensure that communities have good roads, excellent fire and police protection, and other public services to entice businesses to the area. This ideal differs from that of the present Republican-controlled state house, Barborak asserted. "Their philosophy is, 'Let's cut, cut, cut, cut, cut, and you guys figure it out," he said.
In the face of LGF cuts, DeJane commended trustee Kenny Biacco for actively seeking state grants to make up for the shortfalls in key areas of township needs, such as the trash cleanup grant, which yielded its first results at an illegal dump site last week on Hibbets Mill Road. "I don't think, until Kenny came here, that there was ever any grant written for this township," he said. He suggested that Biacco and trustees Dave Boyd and Larry Brewer learn more about those that would further benefit the township.
Township resident Jack Grant asked about grants made available from the Governor's Office of Appalachia, which he's seen put to use in neighboring counties but never in Columbiana. "You go through Mechanicstown, and [they have] brand new sidewalks. I mean, this stuff jumps out at you," Grant said. He stated that Appalachian grant money has been put to good use in other communities but never comes to Columbiana County, and asked for ways to funnel such funding to Columbiana County.
Other topics of conversation included a proposed expansion of Medicaid to Ohioans who, despite having jobs, still cannot afford medical care and have no medical insurance. Though there was some disagreement amongst attendees, Barborak said the expansion - which would extend coverage to 275,000 Ohioans - would save money by sending people to doctors rather than more expensive emergency-room care.
Asking for a show of hands, Barborak found that the majority of attendees would support a proposed "stand your ground" law for Ohio, which is currently the subject of debate in Columbus. He said he would support such legislation, provided it contained explicit language to ensure that the law would not be abused by way of vigilantism or as justification for murder.