BILL O’NEILL: PLAN FOR OHIO
Marijuana should be legal in Ohio. It has many non-addictive medicinal qualities; reduces the dependence on opioids and alcohol; and is a proven job, tax and income producer.
The growing, production, use and sale of marijuana by adults should be taxed and regulated in the same way we tax and regulate tobacco and alcohol.
The O’Neill Plan is to create an Ohio Department of Marijuana Control. If you grow it in your backyard for personal use, that is not a state issue. If you grow it for sale, the state will regulate it for safety and tax it for income.
The Colorado and Washington state experiences demonstrate that in Ohio the taxing of marijuana will provide $500-million in revenue and dramatically reduce law enforcement and prison costs. That money could readily be utilized to combat the opioid crisis that is currently killing 4,000 people a year in Ohio.
NON-VIOLENT OFFENDERS IN FOR-PROFIT PRISONS
A full 9% of our state prison population, or roughly 4,700 people, are a non-violent offender convicted of the possession or sale of marijuana. We spend $100-million a year to keep them in for-profit prisons. That is an outrage.
Study after study has shown that marijuana is dramatically less dangerous than tobacco or alcohol. The State of Ohio regulates and taxes tobacco and alcohol, yet we imprison marijuana offenders. That makes no sense at all.
In addition, a majority of these non-violent offenders reside in for-profit prisons, which charge the state in excess of $15,000 per prisoner per year for their incarceration.
We need to release all non-violent marijuana prisoners and direct that $100-Million towards building a world class hospital network. We need less prisons and more hospitals.
It is morally indefensible for one citizen to imprison another citizen for a profit. It is time to release all non-violent marijuana prisoners and end the practice of running prisons for a profit.
TREAT ADDICTION AS A DISEASE AND NOT A CRIME
Once upon a time in Ohio there was a state government that took the issue of mental health seriously. We had a network of state hospitals that specialized in the treatment of people with mental disorders. And in the 70’s a decision was made to dismantle that entire network. All of them were boarded up.
And here was the theory. We would send these poor souls back to the 88 counties where they came from, and someone would somehow magically treat them. And you know where they ended up? In jail. That’s where the vast majority of our mentally ill citizens now reside. In jail. And in our for-profit prisons. And that simply has to stop. The very thought of mentally ill citizens being incarcerated in for-profit prisons with non-violent marijuana offenders shocks the conscience.
It is time to take the $600-million new revenue from marijuana and prison reform and build a world-class network of regional mental health hospitals. We need long term care to address the 4,000 deaths a year from opioid overdoses; and we have the imperative to provide accessible mental health care for the most vulnerable members of our society. We need more hospitals and less prisons. It really is that simple.
HIGH SPEED RAIL
Thirty years ago there was a feasibility study that demonstrated the economic viability of a 200 mph high speed electric train system from Cleveland to Columbus and down on to Cincinnati. It was going to be funded by a bond issue. Instead we built a third lane on Interstate 71.
If they can build it in China, France, Spain and California, there is no reason it cannot be done in Ohio. Let’s put Ohioans back to work, and build a fast, reliable rail network that will strengthen our transportation system, protect our environment, and make Ohio more attractive to big business.
This is an issue that creates jobs, stimulates the economy, protects the environment, and makes Ohio an even better place to live, raise a family and grow a business.
Ten years ago the Ohio delegation in Congress got us a $600-million federal grant to build high speed rail. The Governor sent it back, and our money was spent to build high speed rail in Utah. We need new leadership with the vision to make the connection between jobs, the environment and economic growth.
MANDATE SOLAR PANELS ON GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS
Solar and wind are the future of energy production in Ohio, and I believe Ohio can lead the nation in this industry. We need to have a statewide policy of mandating Made-In-Ohio solar panels on every single publicly held building in Ohio. There are thousands of public buildings in Ohio and the impact on jobs, the environment and energy cost savings is virtually immeasurable. They pay for themselves in seven years, create good paying jobs, reduce energy costs and protect the environment.
We also need to provide tax credits to encourage installation of Made-In-Ohio solar panels and wind turbines on residences and businesses. By providing tax credits we become partners with Ohio’s farmers who can then install wind turbines across our great state. A farmer in Southwest Ohio could use a small plot of their own land to create limitless amounts of clean, renewable energy, all while profiting themselves. We are talking jobs, environment and reducing dependence on foreign oil. It is a no brainer.
The potential for creating jobs in the solar and wind industries is virtually unlimited. Solar panels pay for themselves in as little as seven years. There is no reason for the state to not be a leader in creating and nurturing this industry of the future. So what are we waiting for?
MAKE EDUCATION FROM PRE-K TO COLLEGE A STATE PRIORITY
A two-year Associate’s Degree today is the equivalent of a high school diploma fifty years ago. And it should be free the same as high school today. Training our children for the jobs of tomorrow is the best investment we can make. But our educational system is a broken mosaic with bright stars and deep valleys. We need to get away from the illegal property tax based funding system and get serious about implementing a thorough and efficient method of providing a high quality education to all our children.
It starts with addressing the problem head on. There are 25 members of the Governor’s cabinet, and not one of them speaks for the K-12 population. There needs to be an educational Czar on the cabinet. Immediately.
REDUCE COST OF FOUR YEAR COLLEGE BY 10% PER YEAR
Room, Board and Tuition at a state university were $1,000 in 1963 and today that same package costs $25,000. That is a multiple of 25. In the same time period, a Chevy Impala has gone from $3000 to $30,000 for a multiple of 10. Yet college has grown by a multiple of 25. Kids are graduating from college $100,000 in debt and they cannot afford to buy a car, build a house, or start a family. In short, they are not enjoying the American dream. They are not stimulating the economy and they are being punished for following the rules. The rules have to change.
Working class parents can simply no longer afford to send their children to a State University, and that is wrong. It’s time the state of Ohio, and your next governor, pledged to make a difference.
I would mandate through the Board of Regents a 10% annual reduction for four years for college; and fund free tuition at the marvelous community colleges in Ohio for the first two years. Free college is wrong. Affordable college is mandatory if we are to compete world wide for good paying careers. The state has lost its vision in higher education, and we need to get it back.
$15-Dollar Minimum Wage
The time for a living minimum wage of $15.00 is upon us, and it makes great economic sense for the state of Ohio.
Take a fast food worker who is making $9.00 an hour today. Raise their wages to $15.00 an hour and I guarantee you next Saturday they will go out and buy a new Jeep Wrangler made in Toledo. They will probably go out to dinner the next Saturday, and if the restaurant has to raise the price of their burger from $8 to $9 that is okay with them…because they cannot afford the $8.00 burger today! Let alone the Jeep Wrangler.
This is Economics 101. You increase the demand for products and the supply rises to meet the demand. All politicians talk about “jobs”…this is the real thing. A plan to dramatically increase the demand for products made in Ohio. And that means new jobs in Ohio. Right here. Right now.
The reality is that by design, today, we have a working class that has to work two or three jobs to keep a roof over their head and they have no ability to purchase the extras. Henry Ford had it right. He paid his workers enough money so that they could purchase the cars they were making.
Under the O’Neill Plan, if you take two entry-level workers and pay them $15 an hour and you have opened the door to the American dream. They can afford a house; they can afford a car; they can afford to raise a family. They are part of the American dream that has always been part of the foundation of our state and country.
This is not just economic sense. It is the right thing to do.