U.S. Representative Mike Turner (R-10th) met with area leaders Monday to talk about economic development and federal policy. Roads, wages and Wright-Patterson Air Force Base were all on the agenda in the meeting with 15 mayors and city officials.
Democrats mentioned President Barack Obama’s proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10, a point he pushed during his State of the Union address last week.
Rep. Turner wasn’t clear on whether he’d consider supporting the president’s proposal, but said his focus is elsewhere.
“The president’s talking about wages when he ought to be talking about the number of jobs that are out there,” Turner said. He said finally agreeing on a two-year budget will free up Congress to consider actual policy proposals, including whatever the president brings to the table in the new year.
Most of the discussion was significantly less partisan: mayors were united on concerns about roads, jobs and state tax policy.
“Our roads are turning to potholes, gravel, and there just aren’t the dollars there used to be for that,” said Don Patterson, the mayor of Kettering. Although Kettering recently announced a new road construction effort, Patterson says local and state funding aren’t enough to keep up his city’s throughways. Federal funding for infrastructure has become scarcer in recent years as cash has dwindled in the federal highway trust fund, which is funded by a fuel tax.
All the mayors seemed to agree on opposition to a state-level income tax reform proposal, HB5, that would limit local municipalities’ ability to levy income taxes and spend them with discretion. The controversial bill has been pushed as an effort to simplify Ohio’s tax code, but has been met with near-universal opposition from city-level leaders.
Last but not least, Beavercreek Mayor Brian Jarvis and others raised the always-present specter of Air Force funding.
“Our growth in our community, our infrastructure, is directly tied to the base, so I have a lot of questions about what’s coming down legislatively impacting Beavercreek and the region,” he said.
A report released Friday found Wright-Patt’s economic impact in the area decreased in 2012 to $4.4 billion, a calculation that includes wages, direct spending, and secondary jobs presumed to be created due to primary wages for the base’s 27,500 military and civilians employees.
Most of the downsizing appeared to be in contracts, rather than in direct payroll: compared with 2009, the military spent about $1 billion less on contract services like construction, supplies and research, a lot of which go into local economies.
Rep. Turner, who called the meeting, said he’ll be reaching out to Greene County, Montgomery County and Fayette County mayors in an ongoing way, most immediately to discuss action on the growing heroin epidemic in Ohio.