Ohio Would be Devastated by McCain Gas Tax Holiday, Historic Opposition to Renewable Energy, Governor, State Senator Say
Strickland Says Winning Friends in Ohio Uphill Battle for McCain, Religious Conservatives Too Fractured to Help This Year
COLUMBUS, OHIO: Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland and State Sen. Eric Kearney, both Democrats, spoke to reporters Thursday afternoon, telling them that Sen. John McCain’s gas tax holiday proposal would result in a loss of millions in Highway Trust Funds and that the Arizona Senator's historic opposition to renewable energy sources like wind and solar would not produce the new energy jobs the Buckeye State needs now, as it struggles to pull itself out of an economic nosedive the duo said needs help from a president like Sen. Obama, who understands the importance of investing in infrastructure and advanced renewables, including clean coal technology.
McCAIN GAS TAX HOLIDAY A DISASTER FOR OHIO
Kearney, a lawyer and senator from Cincinnati in southwestern Ohio who was elected to a four-year term in 2006, said McCain’s proposal for a gas tax holiday “would have devastating effects on the Ohio economy” and could deprive the state of about $255 million in Highway Trust Fund dollars and cost it approximately 8,900 related jobs.
The Cincinnati senator said such a proposal would endanger the Brent SpenseBridge project that links his city to Northern Kentucky over the Ohio River and the construction jobs associated with its completion.
Speaking to reporters, including the OhioNewsBureau, who were invited to ask questions of the two leaders, Kearney applauded Obama for his proposal to create a National Infrastructure Reinvestment Bank, which he said would “expand and enhance federal transpiration investments, stimulate jobs with projects across country” and provide a stimulus package offering tax relief for middle class Americans. “These speak to working families in Ohio,” he said.
Strickland, who supported Sen. Hillary Clinton through the primary season by directing his loyalists and the campaign machinery of the Ohio Democratic Party to ally with those of her campaign, was full of nothing but compliments for Obama, who upon the close of the primary season won his and the state Democratic Party’s full support.
“We need resources to build highways and keep people employed, and it would trouble me greatly as governor of this state if Ohio would be deprived of millions as result of gas tax holiday and do little to help Americans with fuel prices,” he said of McCain’s comment weeks ago that reducing gas prices by abating the federal portion of the tax would provide a needed break for Americans who rely on their car but who are now flummoxed by the price of gas, which is hovering at or above $4 a gallon.
RENEWABLE ENERGY POLICIES NEEDED, NO MORE STATUS QUO
Having done months of battle with Republican leaders of the state legislature to devise a new comprehensive "hybrid" energy plan that put special emphasis on forging forward with renewable and advanced energy policies, Strickland said “Ohio is ready to encourage production of renewable and advanced technologies to meet our energy needs” and lauded Obama for proposing a $150 billion, 10-year program that would provide needed help for energy sources like solar, wind, advanced biofuels. Strickland said such a proposal would “help with energy needs, create jobs, maybe as many as 5 million new jobs, many of these would be created in Ohio.” He said the energy issue is “immense” and congratulated Obama for addressing it.”
The specter of fuel prices rising, Strickland said, will only result in the “massive transfer of wealth out of America to oil exporting countries of $1 trillion per year,” an amount he said should make us all “get serious about our energy needs.” He said while McCain may talk a good game now that he’s the Republican’s presumptive candidate for president, his history of voting for alternative forms of energy like wind and solar stands in stark contrast to what he is saying now. “There is a clear distinction between Obama and McCain’s record,” he told reporters.
Strickland emphasized the great compatibility between “us in Ohio and the Obama campaign.” Although many solutions are years or even decades away from being truly effective, he said the $1.57 billion economic stimulus package he just signed will be spent within 3 years, putting the money to work in the near future. He tipped his hat to encouraging conservation and utilizing the state’s own natural resources, and noted that by the end of the year Ohio will have seven functioning ethanol production facilities. “I would love to plagiarize it (Obama’s energy plan) and call it my own,” he effusively, noting that investments need to be made now for the future.
Kearney chimed in that a clean coal technology policy is good for Ohio and that Obama shares it. Strickland noted that 95 percent of Ohio’s power comes from fossil fuels and said converting coal, a resource the state is blessed with, to liquid fuels would provide “great opportunities for job creation, reducing our dependence on foreign energy sources.” The duo agreed that an aggressive effort is needed to move forward on energy issues and that the status quo is no longer acceptable. ”We need creativity, innovation; we need to invest in what really matters, and that’s the kind of president Obama will be.”
WHAT OBAMA NEEDS TO DO TO WIN “LUNCH PALE” WORKERS
Fielding questions from reporters on energy and other election-related topics, Strickland said Obama can win back so-called “lunch pale” voters by speaking to what he called the “kitchen table issue,” hearkening to the phrase he used in his run for governor in 2006, when he and other Democrats won back statewide offices not held by them for 16 years. “To win Ohio, he needs to talk about bred and butter issues of the economy like energy and college costs, things I talked about when running for governor after Republicans controlled the state for 16 years,” he said in his methodical, sometimes plodding cadence. He said Ohioans will “vote their own best interest” and vowed to accompany Obama to the many small southern Ohio towns where he didn’t fare as well as Sen. Clinton did when he handily took the state in early March.
Born in southern Ohio, a part of the state he represented as a Congressman for more than a decade, Strickland, a prison psychologist and a Methodist Minister, said the once united and powerful force of faith-based voters who helped George Bush win the state in 2004 and who in the same year pushed a proposal to change the state constitution to ban gay marriage, said McCain won’t get the same boost from them this that they gave previously because they are both fractured and starting to focus on new issues like environment and poverty.
Can McCain gain inroads into Ohio with his message, Strickland was asked? Saying Ohio is a microcosm of America and critical to McCain if he wants to win the White House, Strickland said that in his judgment, the religious right is “loosing their ability to impact elections as they have in past.”
RELIGIOUS CONSERVATIVES NOT THE FORCE THEY ONCE WERE
He said there is some disarray in the movement today and that the cohesiveness that once made it a formidable force in Ohio politics is now dissipating. He said McCain will probably have a “difficult time crafting a message and an approach that will be satisfying them because there is increasing division in that community…rather than going to that community and having a single voice, like Pat Robertson, Ralph reed or James Dobson, it’s more fractured and divided now and that makes it increasingly difficult for a candidate like McCain who feels he needs their concentrated and concerted support to win the presidency.”
He said that while it’s nearly impossible for a Republican to win the presidency without Ohio, Obama has an appeal that is more largely based, which could help him win the White House without Ohio. “I am puzzled,” he said of McCain going to Youngstown Ohio. “I can’t image he can gain political advantage in the Mahoning Valley,” an area of the state he said has been devastated by Bush administration policies. He said he see “nothing in McCain’s economic policies that would appeal to the people in Ohio’s distressed communities” and believes that “in spite of his (McCain’s) personal appeal as a war hero and his service to country over many years, the fact that he is, for all practical purpose, committed to pursuing Bush economic polices will prevent him from gaining any foothold in Ohio.”
Strickland noted also that McCain was forced to reject the support of Rod Parsley, a prominent Evangelical leader based in Central Ohio, for statements he made that were serious enough that, like Obama did with his pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, he had to disavow his support.
WOMAN WILL SUPPORT OBAMA, PARTY WILL BE UNIFIED
One reporter, saying she observed a woman wearing a hat at a McCain rally that supported Hillary Clinton, asked Strickland what he thought of it. Strickland said he understood the disappointment shared by some women who supported Clinton passionately but now understand she won’t be the party’s nominee. “If you look at the issues and understand what is important to women, there is no comparison, and I’ve seen a coming to gether happen earlier than I expected, so there maybe an individual here or there, but for their own person reasons, I believe it’s going to be a very small number of women who would make such a decision,” he said of the pending confluence between the two candidate’s supporters. He spoke confidently that there “will be an incredible, concerted, common effort” to heal the differences breached during the primary between the two and said “we will have a unified party, disappointments will be short lived, Obama is reaching out to women, talking about their campaign” and that “a totally unified party…will lead us to victory.”
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