MOUNT VERNON — It wasn’t a full house, but about 30 people attended the Community Town Hall meeting sponsored by the Knox County Democratic Women, Tuesday night. If they expected fireworks from the candidates who attended, they were disappointed. There were disagreements, but everything was expressed civilly.
Participating were the three candidates for Knox County Commissioner, Democrat John Booth, Republican Thom Collier and Independent Jim Hughes; state representative candidates Republican Margaret Ann Ruhl (the incumbent) and Democratic challenger John Ryerson, and Joyce Healy-Abrams, the Democrat challenging incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Gibbs. Gibbs did not attend the session.
Candidates expressed the most disagreements in the race between Ruhl and Ryerson, who disagreed on state budget cuts, Senate Bill 5, identifying chemicals in fracking fluids, school funding and the current State Issue 2.
In response to a question about school funding, Ruhl said a committee in the House of Representatives is looking at the issue and is taking comments. However, she said, “I don’t have a quick answer. If you have any great ideas, I’m all ears.”
Ryerson also said there are no easy answers, but the old system has been ruled unconstitutional and too reliant on property taxes, and we need to find ways of increasing the tax base for school funding.
“We need to get started on it,” Ryerson said. “It’s the No. 1 problem in the state.”
On the broader issue of the state budget and the cuts made in local government allocations, Ryerson said that the economy in Ohio is improving and tax receipts are increasing, so it is time to look at restoring some of the cuts Gov. Kasich made in the last budget.
He added that the state needs to look at closing old loopholes and tax exemptions that no longer serve a useful purpose. He also said he didn’t believe the $8 billion “hole” Kasich used to justify the cuts existed.
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