Lt Gov Mary Taylor
Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, speaking with Portage County small business owners gathered at Lakeside Sand & Gravel in Mantua for a roundtable discussion about Ohio's Common Sense Initiative (CSI) on January 9. (Photo by Estelle R. Brown)

Mantua – Lakeside Sand & Gravel became the backdrop for a visit from Ohio Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor on January 9. It was a stop along Taylor’s journey throughout the state, gathering local business leaders’ concerns about government regulations and promoting the state’s Common Sense Initiative (CSI), designed to “push back against the feds and government regulations when they’re over-reaching.”

CSI Ohio was launched one year ago by Republican Gov. John R. Kasich to reform Ohio’s regulatory policies to help make Ohio a jobs and business-friendly state. CSI Ohio reviews Ohio’s regulatory system to eliminate excessive and duplicative rules and regulations that stand in the way of job creation.

A Summit County native, Taylor was sworn in as Ohio’s 65th Lieutenant Governor on January 10, 2011, the same day Gov. Kasich named her to lead the CSI project to reform Ohio’s regulatory policies, as well as to serve as the director of the Ohio Department of Insurance.

Lakeside’s aggregate business was founded in 1954 by Harry and Henry Kotkowski. Today, it’s a third-generation family business. On Monday afternoon, the Kotkowski family hosted the roundtable in an outbuilding filled with antique mining equipment, with Taylor and Portage County business leaders and local government representatives.

Ben Kotkowski said the roundtable was brought to Lakeside due to their involvement with the National Federation of Independent Businesses, which provides feedback regarding state regulations. Taylor said that “things are starting to turn around” for Ohio’s economy. She was here to get local ideas about what it will take for Ohio to continue to grow in its business-friendly practices.

Invoking Gov. Kasich’s pro-business approach, Talyor said, “We’re trying to break down barriers of bureaucracy and go in a new direction so that new business is attracted to Ohio.” As part of that effort, as of January 1, 2012, anytime a government agency considers imposing a new rule affecting small business, it must first be reviewed according to the CSI process to weed out unintended consequences that could hurt business.

“We know that new rules can be costly to small business, so we want to figure out how small business can comply in a less expensive way. Regulations must be fair, simple, transparent and open,” she said.

…Unlike President Obama’s health care reform initiative, Taylor suggested. She estimated the health care bill could force 10-15% increases in health benefit rates small businesses will be expected to pay out. “Every dollar the government requires is one less dollar available for small business to invest in new technologies, expansion or creating jobs,” Taylor said.

Local business owners shared frustrations common to fellow Ohioans Taylor has already met on her roundtable tour. Common themes include costs associated with workers’ compensation, insurance and legal fees required to file small claims; EPA regulations that halt progress and expansion in the U.S. while China takes over industries that once defined the American way; increased government spending on unnecessary highway/traffic improvement projects; education funding and teachers’ salary reform; an unskilled and under-educated work force; union-related costs; dependence on foreign energy, etc.[pulledquote]“We’re trying to break down barriers of bureaucracy and go in a new direction so that new business is attracted to Ohio.” [/pulledquote]

This laundry list “screams the problems we’re facing in Ohio,” Taylor concluded.”It will take a little time. You push at the local level. I’ll push at the state level. All levels of government need to change the way they’re run. Government needs to function differently.”