MOUNT VERNON — State Rep. Margaret Ann Ruhl discussed her positions and decisions on recent state issues at a Town Hall Meeting sponsored by Knox County 912 Project.
Ruhl listened to comments and fielded questions from a group of nearly 60 citizens.
Many questions centered on what the government was or wasn’t doing for its citizens and whether they could be trusted to do the right thing. Questions such as that posed by one attendee were typical of the evening.
“Is it your sense that the Republican Party has a clue as to how we feel out here in the country?” he asked. “In that we do not trust Democrats or trust Republicans. What we need to see is action from the Republican Party and my personal feeling is that Republicans have one more opportunity to regain our trust. We need Republicans that are going to promise to live under the same laws that they put us under. They need to promise they are going to follow the legislature procedure when they are spending our money. Forget about special inside deals like earmarking.”
Ruhl answered the Ohio Republican Party has reorganized.
“We have a different leader,” she said. “Kevin DeWine took over last year and has done some changes. I can’t speak for the national Republican Party because I am not that active in it. I can tell you we have made some changes and he has worked very diligently with us. Our minority leader has been in the house for many years and I respect him very much. If you relay to me what your problems are, I will work to the best of my ability to help resolve whatever your problem is.”
Ruhl also took questions on specific concerns and pieces of legislation. One question centered on her support for the Ohio Third Frontier program and whether it did any good or created any jobs. Ruhl pointed out that Replex Plastics Inc. of Mount Vernon had recently been awarded a grant of $1,275,500 for equipment purchases and that the grant would mean the creation of about 20 to 22 jobs in the area.
Another question posed to Ruhl was what was the best way for citizens to get their concerns heard by their elected officials.
“I would say if you e-mail me and don’t give me your address I can’t tell if you are a constituent or not,” she answered. “Unless you put your address with it, we don’t give it a lot of weight. We can’t tell if it comes from a constituent or from someone in California. E-mail is probably the fastest way but I still enjoy getting handwritten letters. If there is something you feel very strongly about, a phone call is what I prefer.”
Another question concerned the use of property taxes to fund public schools, the use of school income taxes and the inequity of that system.
“The property is controlled by the voters,” she said. “The school income tax is a ballot issue and was voted on by the people and therefore I can’t reverse that. When they put that on the ballot you need to educate the voters to say no.”
Issue 2, the recently passed animal care amendment to the Ohio Constitution came under question. Specifically that it was going to cost far more to set up the required board than had been estimated before the vote last November. The concern was that it was estimated that it might cost about $175,000 to set up the governing board, but now it was being reported it might cost as much as $500,000. This would also entail a new tax on feed to pay for it, a member of the audience said.
“I can tell you the (Department of Agriculture) director can transfer money out of his budget to set up the board,” Ruhl said. “My understanding is — and I have a copy of that with me — is that it said up to that amount of money to get the board up and going. The tax is to get the money to get the board up and going now. They are increasing the tax on commercial feed, fertilizer and increased fees for livestock inspection. This has not been passed by the legislature. They will have a hearing to my committee, which is agriculture, and we will have a voice from all of the state.”
The event was held at the Trinity Assembly of God.