LIMA — With Tuesday’s primary looming ever closer in Ohio, a key state with 66 delegates up for grabs for the Republicans and 93 delegates to be chosen for the Democrats, having the opportunity to work and earn a good living is a key issue for voters in the Buckeye State.

With the state still feeling the effects of the 2008 recession, Ohio families have been called upon to do more with less. Median household incomes have dropped faster than the national average, down 16.1 percent since 2000, compared to 10.4 percent nationally. In terms of hard numbers, the average family has $9,363 less to work with than 16 years ago.

With lower incomes, more families are living under poverty status in the state. According to the Ohio Poverty Report published in February by the Ohio Development Services Agency, Allen County had 18,269 people, 18.4 percent of the county, determined to live in poverty in 2014, compared to 12.1 percent in 1999 and 12.7 percent in 1989. Auglaize and Putnam Counties also had increased poverty rates in the same time period, with Auglaize having 9.2 percent in 2014 compared to 6.2 percent in 1999 and Putnam at 6.7 percent compared to 5.6 percent.

“Jobs, jobs and jobs”

One of the key issues to reversing this trend is to provide an environment where well-paying jobs can flourish in America.

“My three issues are jobs, jobs and jobs,” Ohio Gov. John Kasich said after a Lima town hall Friday, “keeping them, creating more of them and training people for the jobs we anticipate getting.”

Local voters also emphasized the need to focus on jobs in posts on The Lima News’ Facebook page, many of them voicing support for Kasich, as well.

“Sometimes it’s as simple as jobs, jobs, jobs,” Carol Thomas Ryan wrote on Facebook.

“Kasich has a proven record of tackling debt and increasing jobs through common sense legislation,” Nikki Will wrote. “Jobs, jobs, jobs! We are all lifted by a rising tide.”

Other voters are concerned about what they see as jobs being in jeopardy thanks to the push for right-to-work legislation that would greatly reduce union bargaining power.

“I saw one of the Republicans running on the platform of striving to get in the right to work,” Lima native and Ford retiree Leonard Staley said. “It takes away all of your rights.”

Staley plans on voting for Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders because, according to Staley, he has been consistent in opposing such legislation.

“Bernie Sanders came out right from the start telling you what he thought and he pulled no bones about it, while Hillary kind of beat around the bush,” he said.

Democratic plans

While jobs are a common theme in many campaigns, many candidates have different focal points when it comes to addressing this issue. For Sanders, the crux of the jobs issue is unfair trade policies that he says have decimated the American workforce.

“Our disastrous trade policies for the past 30 or 40 years have had a horrendous impact on the lives of millions of working Americans,” he told a rally in Raleigh, North Carolina Friday, according to a Sanders press release. “I understood way back in the early 1990s what these trade agreements were about.”

Sanders has proposed a $1 trillion infrastructure investment that he said would put 13 million Americans back to work.

His Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton, however, took corporations to task for outsourcing jobs to countries like Mexico at an event in Detroit, according to a Friday release from her campaign.

“I do want to send a clear message to every board room and executive suite,” she said. “If you cheat your employees, exploit your customers, pollute our environment or rip off the taxpayers, we will hold you accountable.”

Republican plans

On the Republican side, current front-runner Donald Trump has proposed to address the issue of income from the angle of lowering taxes.

“If you are single and earn less than $25,000 or married jointly and earn less than $50,000, you will not owe any income tax,” according to his website. “All other Americans will get a simpler tax code with four brackets – zero percent, 10 percent, 20 percent and 25 percent.”

Ted Cruz has called for a flat tax, with a single rate of 10 percent.

“For a family of four, the first $36,000 will be tax-free,” he said. “The Simple Flat Tax will deliver an economic boost of tremendous magnitude.”

Marco Rubio believes that concentrating on skills training and tax reduction is the best approach. Corporate tax rates would be reduced to 25 percent and a $2,500 child tax credit would be created for middle-class families.

“My plan will create millions of jobs, result in a massive increase in investment and boost after-tax income for all Americans,” he said.

Kasich has a similar approach, with focuses on education and tax reform.

“We need lower corporate taxes because we’re some of the highest taxes in the world,” he said at an MSNBC town hall event Friday at Lima Pallet. “Reward people who create jobs because when we create jobs, we help our families. We have to train our kids for the jobs of today and tomorrow right there in the K-12 education and then with vocational education, the community college and then four-year schools.”

By Craig Kelly

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Reach Craig Kelly at 567-242-0390 or on Twitter @Lima_CKelly.