Updated Fri, May 31, 2013 11:43 am
In a changing of the guard within the Ohio House Democratic Caucus, State Rep. Debbie Phillips (D-Albany) was elected Assistant Leader. The caucus selected a new leadership team Tuesday to replace outgoing former House Speaker and Democratic Leader Armond Budish and Speaker Pro Tempore Matt Szollosi.
Phillips, whose 94th House District includes part of Vinton County, is moving up from Assistant Whip and joins State Rep. Tracy Maxwell Heard (D-Columbus) who was selected as the new Democratic Leader of the Ohio House of Representatives.
Phillips said it’s important to have someone from southeast Ohio in the leadership.
“With no proposed increases in education funding we need strong voices speaking up for our region. We need people in the room when budget decisions are being made,” Phillips said.
Phillips criticized what she says are Gov. Kasich’s ongoing cuts to local governments and wants to see money currently in the state’s rainy day fund returned to the district instead of being used for tax cuts. Kasich’s proposed budget plan could grow the fund to an estimated $1.4 billion by year’s end.
“There is money in the rainy day fund that would be better spent for local infrastructure and for our schools. I think of the governor’s proposed tax cuts as a tax shift where money is being taken out of our region and is not being returned,” Phillips said.
Heard is the highest-ranking African-American elected state official along with Senate Democratic Leader Eric Kearney (D-Cincinnati).
Rounding out the new Democratic House leadership is Rep. Michael Ashford (D-Toledo) who was selected as the Democratic Whip and Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) who will serve as the Assistant Whip. Ramos is the Latino member of leadership in the history of the Ohio House of Representatives.
The moves come as news reports surfaced that Budish (D-Beachwood) is contemplating a run for Cuyahoga County Executive. As the top Democrat in the House, Budish served as Speaker of the House from 2008 to 2010 in the 128th General Assembly, and as Democratic Leader in the 129th General Assembly.