The Ohio kilowatt-hour tax, state issue 1, low unemployment rates, and the opioid epidemic were hot-button topics at Midwest Electric’s ACRE Co-op Owners for Political Action Breakfast Tuesday morning. The event kicked off the cooperative’s Member Appreciation Days Oct. 23 and 24.
Five representatives from both state and federal districts were in attendance: Rep. Bob Latta of Ohio’s 5th Congressional District, Rep. Warren Davidson of Ohio’s 8th Congressional District, state Rep. Craig Riedel of Ohio’s 82nd House District, state Rep. Bob Cupp of Ohio’s 4th House District and state Sen. Rob McColley of Ohio’s 1st Senate District. Each legislator was given a chance to discuss state and national issues, then responded to various questions from the crowd.
Matt Berry, CEO of Midwest Electric, broke down the Ohio kilowatt-hour tax, which is the highest in any state at almost a half-cent per kilowatt-hour.
“This is our fourth highest expense, costing each of our members about $100 a year,” Berry said. “This is around $1.2 million a year for us as a co-op. Some states don’t even have this tax, and municipals get to collect and keep it. We think everybody ought to pay the same so there’s no loophole to disadvantage electric co-ops.”
Rep. Bob Latta addresses the crowd, explaining unemployment is the lowest it’s ever been for women today.
Davidson and Latta relayed the success of today’s economy, and Cupp cited minimal state debt, only for “institutions that have lasting value” like higher education facilities, parks, and prisons.
“Let’s look at some of the things that you never hear in the news,” Latta said. “We have the lowest unemployment rate for women in the last 65 years at 3.6 percent. We have the lowest unemployment rate in 49 years if you go back and look. It’s 3.7 percent. Boy, they don’t talk about that in the press very often, do they?”
State issue 1, a controversial talking point, was broken down at length, with nearly all the legislators voicing their negative opinions about the upcoming issue that seeks to uproot Ohio’s drug laws.
“It might have had an OK intention, if I were generous, but the problem is it treats every drug like it’s the same,” Davidson said. “There’s a difference between 19 grams of fentanyl, which could kill 10,000 people, and 19 grams of marijuana, which will probably sell a lot of pizzas.”
McColley pointed out it also allows for a potential 25 percent reduction in most current inmate’s prison sentences.
“Issue 1 would be an absolute unmitigated disaster for the state of Ohio,” McColley said. “This will actually cost lives.”
State Sen. Rob McColley tells the audience he feels state issue 1 will be “an absolute unmitigated disaster for the state of Ohio” and will “actually cost lives.”
Riedel agreed, stating issue 1 is “bad for Ohio” and being promoted by “the very, very far left.”
“They are trying, in my opinion, to promote their value system onto us,” Riedel said. “I think they think they know better than we do and we can’t think for ourselves…Stay out of here. This is Ohio.”
Wind energy development was another topic Riedel spoke on, answering a question from the crowd.
“Rob and I are hoping for a solution that will allow people to have wind power where they want it — not where they don’t.”
Pat O’Loughlin, president and CEO of Ohio’s Electric Cooperatives (OEC) in Columbus (Midwest Electric’s statewide organization), provided an update on the electric industry and detailed OEC’s takeover of Cardinal Power Plant’s operations from American Electric Power.
“In 2009, more than 20 coal-fired power plants existed,” O’Loughlin said. “Today, there are 11."
O’Loughlin also praised Ohio’s recent mutual aid efforts. To assist with power restoration, 54 Ohio electric co-op linemen were sent to North Carolina in the aftermath of Hurricane Florence, and 40 traveled again to North Carolina during Hurricane Michael.
The event included a free buffet breakfast and an electric safety demonstration from linemen afterward. Member Appreciation Days followed, with two days of activities, free lunch and snacks, energy efficiency advice, goodie bag giveaways, and $50 bill credit drawings. Midwest Electric is a political leader in the state of Ohio with more than 700 ACRE Co-op Owners for Political Action members.