Legislators look ahead

ST. MARYS — With the biennial budget signed, sealed and delivered, a pair of local legislators say they plan to turn their attention to several other issues during the remainder of the year. “The big things coming up are redistricting and reform of the pensions and worker’s compensation,” State Sen. Keith Faber, R-Celina, said. “The Constitution requires that after every census we do both redistricting and reapportionment.” Faber said the state will lose two Congressional seats given the population loss during the last decade. While he does not expect major changes to the region, Faber noted some districts could look a lot different when the process is finished. “It’s always difficult to draw lines and figure out how it should change,” Faber said. “Our area could stay the same but if you push on one side of the state, you have to adjust another. Generally you start in the a corner and work your way across the state. I wouldn’t imagine any significant changes here, but you never know.” Faber said tackling reform in pensions is necessary to make sure the programs remain solvent in the future. “Pension reform is essential as soon as possible,” Faber said. “The five plans all have difficulties meeting their sound, long-term needs so it’s important we do three things — No. 1, do it in such a way we end up being sound. No. 2, we do it in a way that tries to make the system consistent with public expectations and No. 3, we maintain promises for Ohioans who are relying on it for their retirement.” During budget negotiations, Faber included a proposal to create a new, locally controlled entity tasked with handling the clean up and development of Grand Lake St. Marys in its battle with algae. The proposal was nixed, but Faber noted additional funding should come the lake’s way in the next two years. “Our proposal for additional funding was modified to $2 million in capital funding and $3 million in dredging,” Faber said. “Plus there was a commitment for $2 million more from development to help foster clean watershed projects, like for a manure digester.” State Rep. John Adams, R-Sidney, said there were parts to budget he liked, including the final phase out of an overall 20 percent reduction in the state income tax. Still, there were other areas Adams said he wished legislators tackled more aggressively. “I like the fact that the budget was balanced without raising taxes,” Adams said. “And we will phase out the estate tax by January 2013.” One area Adams said he wished the budget addressed more was construction reform regarding when the prevailing wage kicked in. Doing so would have helped local municipalities save money on projects, he said. “That just isn’t going to help municipalities and counties deal with construction and repairs of roads and bridges,” Adams said, noting the proposal for a $3.5 million threshold was trimmed to $250,000 — up from $78,000. “It’s going to be a cost we shouldn’t have to pay at the local level.”