Ohio Senate president sizes up first term

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

LIMA — Ohio Senate President Keith Faber says he is proud of the changes made in Ohio this past year through the Legislature and budget.

Faber, R-Celina, is finishing his first year as Senate president. His No. 1 priority in 2013 was workforce development and training for the underemployed. That will remain the same in 2014, he said this week during a meeting with the editorial board of The Lima News, a sister newspaper to the Bellevue Gazette.

“I'll be the first to say even though we are doing better, better isn't good enough,” Faber said.

One of the job creation efforts he is touting is the proposed expansion of Ohio's largest public-works program — the State Capital Improvement Program.

A resolution introduced in the Senate on Tuesday would place before voters in May a renewal of the program, which has been in existence since 1987 and renewed twice. It would increase its current annual funding from $150 million up to $200 million over 10 years.

The funds come from bonds backed by the state's general revenue to help counties, cities, villages, townships and water-sewer districts pay for large infrastructure projects.

The state, with a nearly $1.5 billion rainy-day fund, would pay for the expansion out of existing tax revenue.

“We passed a budget that did what we said we were going to do,” Faber said. “Ohio is rated ninth in job creation in the country right now, which isn't a bad place to be.”

Ohio is becoming a more business-friendly state, Faber said, with changes made this year to the tax code and regulations.


While Faber is quick to point out the No. 9 rating in job creation, Democrats are just as quick to hold up some numbers of their own in what they say is, at best, a fragile recovery. The data is provided by Policy Matters Ohio shows Ohio has experienced rising unemployment and stagnant job growth over the past several months, and ranks 43rd in growth rate over the past 12 months.

Don't be fooled by that, the Republican's second in command says.

“It's not where we need to be, but 170,000 jobs created by the private sector a year is better than 100,000 jobs a year we were losing,” Faber said.

The state's workforce development job board has 100,000 jobs that are going unfilled, Faber said, and he hears from employers in his own district that they have positions going unfilled because they can't find trained workers.

Faber expressed interest in pilot development programs pairing universities and private employers. He said workforce development will continue to be a priority for him.

However, Faber also is targeting higher education; he's begun talking with university presidents about not just freezing tuition, but finding a way to cut it.

“I want a 10 percent cut, but I'd settle for 5 percent,” Faber said.


After serving in Senate leadership, Faber said he's learned that being No. 1 in the Senate is much different than being No. 2 or No. 3. He travels extensively in Ohio, and holds roundtable discussions to gain diverse perspectives among different geographies and interests, he said, and he learns about ways the Legislature can make a difference.

For example, Faber said he learned about an issue with Ohio medical students not being able to find residencies in Ohio. Faber said he's now investigating a program that would fund more residencies with stipulations that new doctors remain in Ohio attending to underserved populations.

He also learned when the Legislature can fix a mistake, he said. An original law passed on teacher evaluations was too onerous, he said, and so the Senate is trying to right the wrong with a new bill.

Heather Rutz covers politics for The Lima News. Contact her at