Now that conservative Republicans control all of state government, Ohio progressives are fighting back. Janetta King, former policy aide to Governor Ted Strickland, has launched a think tank called Innovation Ohio to be a public voice for progressives in state policy debates. The group was announced at a press conference in Columbus today.
Like the conservative Buckeye Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Innovation Ohio will commission reports from experts to shore up their positions on issues like education, the economy, health care, and the environment. While the Buckeye Institute, formed in 1994, describes itself as “Ohio’s premier free market think tank,” Innovation Ohio will be “sort of the obverse side of the Buckeye Institute,” says Innovation Ohio spokesman Dale Butland, a former press secretary for Senator John Glenn.
“We are nonpartisan, but we will take a progressive point of view,” he says. “Our primary constituency is the middle class and the disadvantaged. If economic hard times require sacrifice, we believe the sacrifice has to be equally shared. As far as we can tell, the wealthy have not sacrificed.”
Innovation Ohio released its first policy paper at today’s press conference, dealing with what it calls “the ill-advised assault on collective bargaining justified by the false claim that teachers’ ability to negotiate wages and benefits has contributed to Ohio’s budget deficit. (The Buckeye Institute, meanwhile, is spotlighting how highly paid it believes teachers are.)
“What makes [Innovation Ohio] different from other policy organizations is that we will have rapid response capability to counteract policies that originate elsewhere,” says Butland, referring to the policies put forth by conservative politicians and groups. He’s optimistic that Ohio media will be open to giving Innovation Ohio a voice.
“We had an excellent turnout at the press conference, and there was a very high level of engagement,” he says. “There’s not much you can do about what a given newspaper decides to print. You just have to put out good quality stuff and hope reporters will in fact report on it.” — Amastasia Pantsios