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Legislature wraps up work for 2009

This is my final column for 2009. It has been a rough year for many Ohioans as the economy has led to job losses and other hardships on families. As this decade comes to a close, let us all work toward better days ahead.

It seems like yesterday that the clock was ticking down to the turn of the millennium and the beginning of the 21st century, and the world was concerned about the potentially catastrophic consequences of Y2K. Ten years later, I believe this decade will be defined by 9/11, not only for the thousands of lives lost on that tragic day, but the heroic response to the attacks by firemen, police officers and other public safety forces, as well as the brave men and women in our nation’s military who are still fighting terrorists around the world. However, history ultimately holds the tale.

I am very fortunate to have been able to maintain my 100 percent voting record and achieve my 15th year of perfect attendance in the General Assembly. But, like many of you, it was not an easy year to do my job. Tensions rose as the state’s fiscal situation declined and Republicans and Democrats debated about how best to balance the budget. There were also major disagreements between the Senate, House and Governor Strickland about education, health care and other important issues.

I, for instance, vehemently opposed the Governor’s education plan when he introduced it in the spring, because it dramatically increased disparity between high-wealth and low-wealth school districts, while also slapping expensive new mandates on schools and significantly raising costs for the state.

At the end of the day, the dire budget situation coupled with pressure from legislators and some school leaders forced the Governor to put his plan on hold. Instead, every district received either a small increase or decrease in funding from last year.

I was the target of many attacks for speaking out against the Governor’s education proposal, but I have tough skin. I can take criticism as long as I believe that I am doing the right thing for Ohio and the 17th Senate District.

We all have different perspectives and life experiences which lead us to differences of opinion.

There are some in both parties that see politics as a blood sport. I saw it first hand in 2001 and 2005 when every Democrat voted against the budget and tried to disrupt the process.

During the recent debate over how to fix a $851 million hole in the current education budget, I heard from members on both sides of the aisle who wanted to pattern the same behavior.

Power for power’s sake is not praiseworthy. During these difficult times, I hope that personal egos and ambitions can be put aside, and the Governor and Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate can concentrate on doing what is best for Ohioans. Naturally, the Legislature and the Administration have differences on what is the best policy for the state, but no one should be attacked personally for making a decision that was a result of doing their job.

This does not mean that each one of us should not be held accountable for our actions. We should.

But the most effective way to hold public officials accountable is not through personal attacks, but by encouraging voters to ask questions and challenge and establish their own viewpoints. I will do my best to live up to that standard.

This has been a tough year for many Ohioans and an extremely frustrating and challenging time to be a state legislator. But, I am optimistic that if we all work together to do what is right for Ohio, we will overcome these difficulties and emerge stronger in the future.

I would like to wish you and your family a very Happy New Year!

John A. Carey is a member of the Ohio Senate and represents the 17th District. He can be reached at Ohio Senate, Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio 43215 or by phone at (614) 466-8156.