Ohio’s lieutenant governor meets shop owners, talks budget

MARIETTA – If it weren’t for a pair of western boots and a pair of pink socks, Ohio’s lieutenant governor might have spent less time in downtown Marietta Thursday.

Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor has been on the road this week visiting towns and small businesses across Ohio to gauge reaction to Gov. John Kasich’s recently passed 2014-15 state budget.

After similar trips to Salem and Kent on Wednesday, Taylor stopped by Schafer Leather Store for a private meeting with owner Rob Schafer and Marilyn Ashcraft, southeast region representative for the lieutenant governor.

Sales clerk Kim Nabers, 53, said the visit was an honor.

“We appreciate all the attention,” said Nabers, who has been working at the downtown business for about 13 years. “This is a very unique store.”

Fifth-generation Schafer Leather Store, 140 Front St., was included on Taylor’s itinerary because the business has been in operation since 1867 and has had several economic and business challenges in its 146 years, said Chris Brock, Taylor’s communications director.

Ashcraft said the three discussed how the new budget and the tax breaks would benefit the small businesses of the state, including Schafer Leather Store, for about 20 minutes Thursday afternoon.

“The lieutenant governor wanted to know how it would be helpful to (Schafer’s) business and how did it affect them,” Ashcraft said. “That enables a business to hire a new employee.”

Taylor mentioned the 50 percent small business tax cut, which will make $1.6 billion available in new capital that, during the next three years, small businesses can use to reinvest in their companies.

The 10 percent personal income tax cut during the next three years was created by eliminating the estate tax and $800 million in tax relief, according to the information from the 2014-15 state budget.

“We’re making it easier to create jobs,” Taylor said. “One hundred and seventy thousand private sector jobs have been created since 2011. We can’t take our foot off the gas.”

Molly Varner, Washington County Democratic Party chairwoman, said she felt the jobs creation picture wasn’t quite as rosy for Ohioans.

“When you talk about creating jobs in Ohio and turning the Department of Development into something like JobsOhio and taking public money and closing the process so there is no accountability on that system, I question the benefit of that to the state of Ohio,” she said.

“I would have liked to have the opportunity to ask Lt. Gov. Taylor how she thinks the budget will benefit education in southeast Ohio and how, in fact, it will benefit small business in southeast Ohio.”

Varner said jobs are created all the time when business is good, and it matters how that business owner perceives that business right now.

In the state’s schools, Taylor said the goal of the budget is to continue to work to give classrooms more of what they need, including $1.5 billion in new funds during the next two years.

“The budget gets more money into classrooms and more resources so that kids can learn regardless of where they live or their personal circumstance,” Taylor said.

Critics of the new school-funding model have said it directs more money to wealthier districts than some of the poorest in the state. They also point out that many districts are receiving less money than they did in 2010-11, when one-time federal stimulus funds were used to offset cuts to state aid to schools.

Taylor ended her visit at Schafer Leather Store with the purchase of the boots and pink socks and then had lunch at the Lafayette Hotel. Cambridge was the next stop on Thursday’s schedule.