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Governor addresses budget, transportation projects

When Gov. Ted Strickland visited Ironton on Friday, he wanted to tell a group of seniors about the two-year budget bill, which he signed Saturday.

Those in attendance, however, were looking for answers on other issues.

The former 6th District representative and Scioto County native was greeted with a standing ovation at the Park Avenue Apartments. He was also interrupted with applause at various times as he touted the legislation that took aim on children’s health care, primary and secondary education, and tax cuts for seniors.

“A lot of good things need to be done, but not everything can be done because we have limited resources,” Strickland said. “So what we’ve tried to do … is work together — executive and legislative, House and Senate, Democrat and Republican — to put together a budget that we think will move Ohio forward.”

Strickland was joined at the podium by Republican Clyde Evans, the 87th District representative from Rio Grande. Both men talked about the bi-partisan effort to get the budget bill passed.

The legislation made it to Strickland’s desk with just one no vote in conference committee after it had overwhelming support in both chambers.

“I think the people in Lawrence County sent me, Sen. (John A.) Carey and Gov. Strickland to Columbus not to get involved in political debates, but to come up with the best budget possible,” Evans said. “There were things we all didn’t agree on, but there were enough things that were in there that we agreed on that made it a good bill.”

Strickland said it was not an easy process, but a healthy one.

“I meet with the Republican leadership on one day and the Democratic leadership on another day and we’ve done that every single week. We sit around a round table — I like a round table because if you have a round table everybody is equal and nobody is sitting at the head of the table,” Strickland said. “We talk and we plan and we debate. Sometimes we argue. You know, I’ve got a little southern Ohio in me and I know how to argue, but we do it in a respectful way that has enabled us to get something done.”

Strickland opened the floor and was posed with questions about gas prices, the Chesapeake Bypass, the Ironton-Russell Bridge and veterans’ health care.

Strickland, a vocal opponent of the Bush administration during his time in Congress, was critical of the oil industry.

“I think we are being gouged. If there was any documented shortage of gasoline, then we may be able to understand why the prices have gone up,” he said. “I don’t see any lines at the service stations and I don’t see any evidence or shortage and, in fact, the price of crude oil has moderated compared to what it was previously.”

Several in attendance, including Ironton City Council member and former mayor Bob Cleary, pressed the governor on the importance of a new Ironton bridge.

Strickland said some projects are not moving as quickly as hoped for various reasons.

“(The Ohio Department of Transportation) had made a lot of promises it didn’t have the ability to keep and that’s something I inherited,” Strickland said. “A whole lot of promises, without resources, and part of the reason is the escalation in iron and steel and concrete (costs). Energy costs also went up, but we’ll do the best we can with the resources we have.”

Strickland has been speaking across the state on the budget. He was in Toledo, Cleveland and Columbus on Thursday. Besides Ironton, the governor had visits Friday in Youngstown, Cincinnati, Dayton and Columbus.