In his final State of the Union address last week, President Obama said that “the future we want — opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids — all that is within our reach.”
The record-breaking 2015 auto sales we celebrated this month are case in point.
From the auto rescue, which saved Ohio jobs, to delivering health care to thousands of Ohioans through the Affordable Care Act, to cracking down on Wall Street banks who cheat the system, we have achieved incredible victories for working people across our country and our over the last seven years. And I am proud to have done my part for Ohio.
But our work is far from over, and I have no intention of slowing down in 2016.
It’s no secret that Washington doesn’t have the best reputation for getting things done. But the progress we made on tax cuts at the end of 2015 proves that we can still do great things for Ohio and for our country.
We permanently expanded the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits for families with children — one of the biggest victories for working people in recent memory. These tax credits lift millions out of poverty, promote work, and put more of the money families have earned in their own pockets.
But we can do more. And this year I am turning my focus to expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for Ohio workers without children. Right now, a minimum wage worker putting in 40 hours a week can literally be taxed into poverty. That’s wrong, and we’ve got to change it.
In my role on the Banking Committee, I fought hard to secure $2 billion for the Hardest Hit Fund, which helps clean up communities that were devastated by the housing crisis. Now, we have to keep working to make sure Ohio communities get their fair share of that funding.
This week, the Agriculture Committee will turn our attention toward renewing the Child Nutrition Programs — which ensure Ohio children have access to healthy, nutritious meals while they are in school. But too many Ohio children go hungry during the summer months, when school is not in session. That’s why I’ve introduced bipartisan legislation to increase access to federal child nutrition programs year round. Making sure our children don’t go hungry is something everyone can support, and I am confident we can get this done.
We also must make sure Ohio students have access to the education and training they need to land the jobs of the future. College affordability is shaping up to be a major priority in 2016, and I will continue working to crack down on for-profit colleges who make money at the expense of Ohio students.
If a school is getting taxpayer dollars from Pell grants or other federal aid, that money should be spent on educating students, not corporate advertising and marketing.
That’s another bipartisan priority on which I think we can all agree, and just one of the ways I will be working to help more Ohio families afford the education they need to compete in today’s economy.
These are just some of my priorities for the year ahead. Our to-do list is long, and I’m determined to continue cutting through the gridlock to find ways we can work together to deliver results for Ohio this year.
The writer is a U.S. senator from Ohio.