Cera guest speaker for Toronto chamber

TORONTO -State Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, spoke about several local and state issues during Thursday’s luncheon meeting of the city chamber at the North River Avenue Christian Church.

Cera briefly discussed his family and his previous tenure as a state representative from 1983 to 1996.

“I worked on a number of issues back then, including flooding and (the expansion of) U.S. Route 22,” he said.

Cera said he voted against the state’s newest budget for this year.

“As in any budget, there’s good things and bad things,” said Cera, adding he believed the budget was flawed because, “You usually set your revenues earlier and your expenses later. It’s the opposite for this budget.”

Cera said he didn’t agree with the sales tax increase as part of the budget.

“That can be a tax that negatively affects businesses,” he said, adding the additional tax hurts Ohio companies trying to compete with companies in two neighboring states. “It’s also a regressive tax because working families end up paying more.”

He also said there were changes to the Homestead Exemption for property taxes for seniors, and any school levies passed would be more expensive for property owners because the state will subsidize less of the revenue as part of the levy.

“The taxpayers are going to pay 12 and one-half percent more (for any educational tax levies),” said Cera. “Those tax policies concern me.

“Local governments have been hit hard also,” Cera continued, adding the state’s urban areas tend to get more state revenue than smaller hamlets. “This budget didn’t restore any of those (past) cuts for local governments. Smaller communities need state funding. It has a severe impact on our local governments.”

Cera said the area has attracted the attention of state government because of oil and gas exploitation.

“Now they know where we are because of this oil and gas boom,” he said. “It would be nice to see us get some revenue from that if there’s going to be an additional tax (tied to drilling).

“I think it’s an exciting time,” he continued. “But I also don’t want companies trampling over citizens.”

Cera also said the state still hasn’t adequately dealt with funding public education in the state.

“I would say Gov. Kasich’s policies toward funding public education are flawed,” Cera said, noting $1 billion has been funneled to charter schools with some of them failing. “(Funding for public education) has been a failure of several administrations and legislatures over the years. We have failed the public.”

Cera said it’s ironic the state Legislature still is dealing with some of the same issues since when he first entered public office.

“Here it is 15 years later, and we’re still trying to figure out school funding and other issues,” he said.