Erie County's newest state senator says he knows jobs are the top issue in Northern Ohio.
State Sen. Mark Wagoner,R-Toledo, says he understands economic development has to be his top priority.
In an interview Monday at the Register, Wagoner, 36, said he's been traveling to Erie County about once a week to talk with people about their concerns. He said a common denominator of most discussions is how tough it is these days to make ends meet.
"A lot of people are hurting out there," he said. "You hear a lot about that."
Wagoner, a former member of the Ohio House, was appointed to the Ohio Senate's Second District to replace former state Sen. Randy Gardner, who left to take a vacant position in the House. Wagoner is seeking a full four-year term during this year's elections.
Wagoner said he believes NASA Plum Brook Station is a "great asset" that could help generate jobs in Erie County.
Alternative energy is a promising area, with wind power offering real potential in Erie and Ottawa counties, he added.
"Where I can help is providing the resources down in Columbus," Wagoner said.
Wagoner also discussed other issues:
* Commenting on Ohio Edison's effort to raise electricity rates for residents of Erie County and other local areas, Wagoner said he's concerned about it, but it's an issue for regulators at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio and that lawmakers usually don't weigh in on such cases.
The bigger picture is the energy bill working its way through the legislature, said Wagoner, who said he supports the bill's intent to replace a deregulated energy market with new regulation.
"I think it's clear the system we had in place wasn't working," he said. "I think it makes sense to bring back some regulation."
* Wagoner said he expects to work well with state Rep. Chris Redfern, D-Catawba Island, on issues affecting Erie and Ottawa counties.
"Chris and I are friends," he said. "I am not a partisan guy. I am a get-things-done kind of guy."
* Wagoner said he's working to try to get funding to help the village of Milan obtain needed repairs on U.S. 250.
"It's an issue I inherited," he said. "It really sounds like Milan got the short end of the stick."
* Wagoner said he's skeptical of Gov. Ted Strickland's proposal to issue $1.7 billion of bonds to provide money to stimulate the economy with public works, alternative energy programs and other efforts.
It would cost the state $3.1 billion to pay the bonds off, Wagoner said, explaining that he's concerned about taking on so much debt.
* Wagoner is also "disappointed" Strickland has put off discussing his reform plan for education financing until 2009. The governor made education reform his top issue when he ran in 2006.
"When the governor made this his signature issue, we thought the very first bill he'd introduce would be his school funding plan," Wagoner said.