On the Issues

My position on the issues that I believe are most important and relevant to the people of the 58th District are interrelated and bound by a common thread: allocating available resources in a way that will provide the opportunity for our residents to compete and succeed in the 21st Century.
The current Republican obsession with tax cuts that deliver crumbs for working families and bonanzas for the wealthy are doing the exact opposite. That is because they result in state budget cuts that deprive our public schools of the revenue they need to provide a world class education and local governments of the funds required to keep our neighborhoods and families safe and maintain and build the infrastructure that is critical to job creation and retention.

I believe we must shift our budget and spending priorities away from destructive tax cuts and toward investing in the things that will drive growth and development in the years ahead. The time has come for the state of Ohio to partner with public schools and local governments rather than undermine their ability to serve the people who depend upon them.

As the State Representative from the 58th District, I focus on these issues:

  • Strengthen public education at all levels;
  • Repair, rebuild, and enhance our community’s infrastructure;
  • Ensure that local governments have the resources needed to provide essential services;
  • Retain and attract good-paying jobs in the information technology, advanced and traditional manufacturing, and energy sectors;
  • Ensure that the exploration and extraction of our region’s energy resources creates opportunity for local residents and businesses;
  • Protect our environment;
  • Support the arts;
  • Protect democracy by ensuring that every eligible voter has ample opportunity to cast a ballot and that all ballots cast are counted.

Michele Lepore-Hagan on education

A new study released by the Pew Research Center demonstrates that education is more important than ever before. According to the landmark survey, the median income of a college graduate between the ages of 25 and 32 is now $17,000 per year higher than that of a worker in the same age group who has only earned a high school diploma.

I believe we have an obligation to ensure that every child in Ohio, regardless of geography, race, or income level has the opportunity to reach their full academic potential and reap the sizable rewards college brings. That doesn’t just mean making public higher education more affordable and accessible—it means doing what is necessary to make sure kids are prepared for college when they get there.

To do that we need to employ a number of strategies including:

  • Increase the availability of high-quality pre-school;
  • Strengthen primary and secondary education;
  • Invest in technology;
  • Improve teacher training. I’m pleased and proud to say that’s a goal we’ve accomplished at YSU as indicated by the fact that 100% of students taking the state teacher/principal licensure exams passed this year.

I acknowledge that implementing these strategies will require additional investment in public education. But given the long-term dividends that investment will pay in higher wages and more desirable workforce, I believe it’s an investment we can’t afford not to make.

Michele Lepore-Hagan on energy exploration and extraction

Let’s deal in realities:

  1. Fracking is here to stay.
  2. The companies engaged in fracking must pay a reasonable severance tax and they along with companies that provide services associated with drilling and refining must abide by regulations that will keep our air, water, and land safe.
  3. The imposition of both a reasonable tax and effective regulations will not chase the energy companies away.

Items one and three are true because the energy companies are not going to walk away from the trillions of dollars-worth of gas and oil that are lying underneath our region.

Item two is true because government is obligated to ensure that fracking is done safely and that the exploitation of our energy resources generates benefits for Ohioans, not just profits for out-of-state companies.

A reasonable severance tax should generate:

  1. The funds local governments need to support the industry, including repairing roads damaged by oil drilling equipment and trucks;
  2. Funds for energy-related education and job-training programs so that Ohioans have the skills needed to work in the industry;
  3. Funds needed to enforce environmental and workplace safety regulations;
  4. Funds needed to perform research into the long-term effects of fracking and fracking waste disposal and to develop solutions to any problems identified by such research;
  5. Funds that will be invested in education and infrastructure not directly related to the energy industry.

Michele-Lepore Hagan on business attraction and job creation

The formula for attracting and retaining business and creating good-paying jobs is time-tested: create an appealing environment that features:

  • Good schools
  • A vibrant arts and culture community
  • Safe neighborhoods
  • Well-educated and highly motivated workforce
  • Sufficient traditional and high-tech infrastructure
  • Access to major transportation arteries
  • Ample supply of affordable, usable land
  • Supportive government officials and community leaders

That formula should sound familiar because it’s what our community used to attract Vallourec Star, to convince General Motors to produce the Cruze in Lordstown, and to bring America Makes to Youngstown making us a leading center in the cutting-edge additive manufacturing industry.

It’s the formula that transformed us from a symbol of the “Rust Belt” to a shining example of all the possibilities and opportunities that exist in the emerging “Tech Belt.”

As a member of the Ohio House, I work with Congressman Ryan, Senator Brown, the Obama Administration, and other government officials to build upon our success and to secure the funds needed to invest in the tangible assets that truly make a community attractive to business: schools, roads, infrastructure, public safety. These investments can only be made if the current tax-cutting frenzy that’s engulfed the Republicans who control state government comes to an end.