MOUNT VERNON — Two of the three Republican candidates for the 19th District Ohio Senate seat answered a variety of questions Monday night during the 9/12 Project’s Meet the Candidates Night at the Knox County Memorial Theater.
Mount Vernon residents Thom Collier and Louis Petros took on audience questions without opponent Kris Jordan, whose absence was questioned by those in attendance. According to moderator Warren Edstrum, Jordan did not communicate any prior commitments or provide a reason for not attending Monday night.
Collier and Petros laid out different sets of skills and ideals on the table. Collier, born and raised in Mount Vernon, has worked largely as a self-employed entrepreneur with experience as a legislator.
“I’m the only person in the race with 25 years of small-business experience as well as elected experience to know how things get done in Columbus,” Collier said. “I’m a fiscal and social conservative.”
Petros, who moved to Mount Vernon 18 years ago, has a background in education and banking, and feels the federal government has grossly overstepped its bounds.
“I’m retired and I’m so disgusted with what’s going on with our government,” Petros said. “There has got to be a better way. We need to take the federal government back down to size.”
The topic of jobs was raised; one question addressed Ohio’s ranking of 30th when offering a favorable climate for business.
“It’s actually 46th or 47th in some areas,” Petros said. “We need to change the rules and regulations under which businesses operate. We have to somehow overcome those rules and regulations and put them into perspective so free enterprise can [flourish].”
“Corporate tax reforms have moved Ohio to 30th [position]. It has moved us up the charts, but we need to do more,” Collier said. “We need better regulations and tax reforms.”
Collier illustrated his frustration with state regulations by explaining it takes nine weeks in Mississippi to pursue permit approval from the Environmental Protection Agency. In Ohio, he said, the exact same permits can take up to nine months for approval.
The Ohio Third Frontier is a $1.6 billion initiative that was designed by a bipartisan effort to make investments in technology that will ultimately increase industrial production in the state.
“It’s a good idea but not the right time, because the governor has balanced the budget with one-time money,” Collier said. “We have to find other ways to do it without borrowing.”
“The Third Frontier continues to be a program that is successful for bringing in jobs,” Petros said. “It is a public and private partnership and I would like to do it without government help.”
Petros said the Ohio Constitution allows for a 5 percent debt limit; it is currently at 4.95 percent.
“This program works but it costs taxpayers money. I think we need to do it because of the unemployment, but at some point we need to get rid of it,” Petros said.
The candidates were also asked how they propose to get state’s rights back where they belong.
“States have all rights not given to the federal government,” Petros said. “All the rest belong to you, the people of the state of Ohio. We have to work as a people to take back those rights and get the federal government out of our lives as much as we can.”
“The states formed the federal government, not the other way around,” Collier said. “We have given too much power to the federal government; it’s not how our Founding Fathers wanted that to be. It’s excited the 9/12 groups and the Tea Party groups. People are waking up. … It will take an uprising of people. And, we need an educated and active electorate. It takes all of us.”
Addressing where to make cuts in the state budget, Collier said 85 percent of the state’s budget goes to “educate, medicate and incarcerate.” Collier said if cuts cannot be made in those three areas, no other options will work. In addition, Collier said, he would continue his fight to get rid of the state income tax.
“If they don’t have it, they can’t spend it,” he said.
Petros said he would like to see the elimination of several layers of government.
“We have two, three, four levels of government dealing with the same issues. We need to shift to the local levels and take the issues back,” Petros said.
Petros said moving jobs from the federal and state level down to the counties and townships would bring more decision making to the people and would eliminate fraud and waste.
Passenger rail, the federal money attached to the proposal and the state funds needed to operate the system, were addressed when one man asked if the candidates were prepared to decline federal money with mandates opposed by the people of Ohio.
“Light rail is an upgrade to the Amish horse and buggy,” Collier said. “They are willing to give us $400 million to build it, but we have to say no. Any time you get shekels you are going to get shackles. It will take $28 million a year to subsidize it. ... We need to say no to far more of those [situations].”
“Where do you get $400 million? It’s printed, borrowed or coming from you,” Petros said. “We have to stop giving them our money in the first place and exert our state’s constitutional rights.”
On the issue of illegal aliens in Ohio, different solutions were presented.
“We solve that problem by counting citizens instead of the number of people in the country during the census,” Collier said. “States like California, Texas and Arizona would lose representatives. Instead, they gain power in the country by counting the illegal immigrants.”
By taking a necessity for illegal immigrants out of the equation, Collier said he believes the federal government would do more to fight that battle.
“A common-sense approach could have been taken with the 2010 census,” Collier said.
Instead of making it less rewarding to keep illegals in the United States, Petros proposes a more timely effort.
“It is not correct to count them in the census,” Petros said. “But, if a sheriff picked one up [for a traffic violation], we should fill up a bus and take them to the Capital Building in Washington. There would be more reform if we did that. Send them to Washington and let them do with it what they want.”