MOUNT VERNON — The two Republican candidates for the 90th District seat in the Ohio House of Representatives worked their way through topics ranging from term limits and school funding to illegal aliens and the state budget during an hour-long Meet the Candidates session Monday night at the Knox County Memorial Theater.
Incumbent Margaret Ann Ruhl outlined her years of public service that brought her to the House of Representatives in the 2008 election.
“That’s not exactly true,” Ruhl said on rebuttal to her opponent Patrick Quinn’s statement that Ruhl never worked in the private sector. “Growing up I worked on the family farm. I worked for my lunch and my dinner.”
Quinn, a small-business owner, said he was “tired of government controlling our lives.” He said it will take someone who is “made of something” and can back up his or her words with actions to do what’s right for the people.
“You know I’m made of something because I can stand in front of you, in Ohio, and say I’m a Michigan fan,” Quinn said.
One member of the audience asked what changes the state can make in school funding.
“The state needs to do something about school funding. They need to get their money from something other than property taxes. We need our money for ourselves,” Joe Schmitt said.
Ruhl said the legislature’s collective bargaining caucus is looking into funding possibilities but nothing is in writing.
“No matter how we do it, it’s your money — even state money is your money,” Ruhl said. “Any change in the formula affects you. … The state needs to set a formula and leave it alone. I think we should give a flat amount of money per child per school.”
As the current funding for schools has been deemed unconstitutional by the Ohio Supreme Court, Quinn said he has devised a plan that, until something better comes a long, should make everyone happy.
“The state spends $20 billion a year on education from [kindergarten] through 12th grade,” he said. “I propose a 4.5 percent sales tax on everything. … There are currently two administrators for every one teacher. We need to eliminate the Department of Education. If we do this, it will immune us from the hooks in Washington and we won’t have to answer to Washington anymore.”
Quinn said his proposal on a statewide sales tax could drop as low as 2.5 percent once those administrative jobs were eliminated.
Ruhl and Quinn were in agreement regarding the federal government’s new plan for universal health care.
“We do not need government telling us what to do. Individuals should make that decision,” Ruhl said. “We have a right to health care, but not at the expense of taxpayers.”
“To put the burden on small-business owners is ridiculous. … We need the freedom to buy insurance from wherever we want. We need to get rid of state lines so we can buy insurance anywhere. This is a cookie-cutter system that doesn’t favor anyone,” said Quinn.
Moderator Warren Edstrum asked the candidates how they propose to reduce the state budget and increase employment.
“House Bill 25, which I co-sponsored, will reduce state agencies from 24 to 11,” Ruhl said. “That will save $2 billion in the state budget.”
Ruhl said there is another proposed bill that would allow tax credits for businesses that hire unemployed workers for at least two years. These business would not be allowed to lay off current employees to make room for new hires, she said.
“We just can’t get those bills to move. The Democrats have no intention to move on them. We can’t get them out of committee because house committees are chaired by Democrats,” Ruhl said.
For Quinn, cutting the state’s budget is simple.
“Cut taxes,” Quinn said. “Don’t give them the money. That’s not hard — it’s not rocket science. We need to get rid of government, it’s too intrusive anyway.”
Although he did not offer a solution to increasing employment in the state, Quinn said he did not feel temporary infrastructure contracts were fulfilling the need for more jobs.
“We need to increase jobs, but not just temporary road jobs,” he said. “Kokosing is not going to increase its work force, they already have those crews.”
The increasing number of illegal aliens in Ohio, and the money spent through social services to provide them with a means to live here, was questioned.
“The answer is don’t spend any money,” Quinn said. “If they are illegal, get them out. Why spend thousands of dollars on them if they aren’t supposed to be here in the first place?”
“That’s really more of a federal issue than a state issue,” Ruhl said. “I believe they should either be a citizen or finish their visa and go back. Right now, the Morrow County Jail is staying open because of the illegals being housed there. I’m a representative of yours, if that’s what you want, that’s what I’ll work for.”
The federal government has offered Ohio $400 million to build a light rail system from Cleveland to Cincinnati. Both Quinn and Ruhl are in opposition of the plan.
“It’s wrong. Why do we need it?” Quinn said. “It’s $400 million of our own money for something we don’t even want. It doesn’t even come to Mount Vernon.”
“I’ve been against it from the very beginning,” said Ruhl, who sits on the state’s transportation and infrastructure committee. “As far as I know, it’s not going to get any funding.”
In response to the final issue, which questioned God’s role in the candidates’ everyday life, both candidates acknowledged a deep personal relationship with God and a pro-life stance on abortion.