LIMA — Citing his extensive financial experience in both the private and public sectors, Republican Robert Sprague says he is the right man with the right ideas and leadership skills to take over as Ohio’s next treasurer.
Sprague, a Findlay resident, currently serves as a state representative from Ohio’s 83rd District. He was appointed to that seat in 2011 to replace Cliff Hite, who was appointed to the Ohio Senate. Sprague easily won a Republican primary race over Sandy O’Brien in May and will square off on Nov. 6 against Democrat Rob Richardson Jr., a Cincinnati-area attorney.
The two candidates are seeking to fill the position currently held by Republican John Mandel, who is prevented by state term limits from seeking re-election.
Sprague, a former treasurer and auditor for the City of Findlay, stopped briefly at The Lima News on Wednesday to discuss his candidacy and to outline what he said are major differences between himself and his opponent.
Chief among those differences is the candidates’ divergent views on State Issue 1. Supporters of the proposed amendment to the state constitution say criminal sentencing reforms outlined in the measure will save Ohio billions of dollars and will replace incarceration for persons convicted of low-level, non-violent drug charges with expanded treatment options.
Opponents say the measure would rob judges of the ability to order drug offenders into treatment and would simply shift the costs of housing prisoners from the state to county and local governments.
Count Sprague among the detractors.
“My opponent says the amendment would implement more criminal justice reforms, but I think he’s dead wrong. I think Issue 1 is insane … a very bad idea,” Sprague said.
Sprague has a different idea to attempt to provide treatment options for a growing number heroin- and opioid-addicted Ohio residents. He said the state could join forces with the private sector through the sale of Social Impact Bonds which provide a monetary incentive for organizations and entities to embrace new and innovative approaches to drug rehabilitation.
The SIB bonds, Sprague said, are an “innovative financing tool” that would allow the private sector to develop new drug rehabilitation treatment programs. If those programs can show a recovery rate for drug addicts of 40 percent or greater, the state would buy back the bonds. The current statewide recovery rate for addicts hovers around 11 percent, he said.
“It can be done,” Sprague said. “The objective is to save lives, not to save money. But when recovery rates increase, the state spends less money on the criminal justice system and children’s services. The risk with the bonds lies with the private sector, so there’s no down side for the state. We just need the leadership to get this program off the ground.”
Sprague also talked about his desire to help people with developmental disabilities by expanding the state’s STABLE account program “to make sure families are educated about how to take advantage of this innovative financial tool.”
Sprague said he cannot concern himself with the current national divide among the voting populace as this year’s midterm election draws near.
“I can’t control that environment. All I can do is bring good ideas to the table,” said Sprague. “We are on a comeback in Ohio and we have a chance to write a new chapter here. We need new ideas, and that’s what I bring to the table.”
As the state’s chief financial officer, the treasurer oversees an annual operating budget of around $68 billion.
“I have the necessary financial experience, and that’s important for the people of Ohio,” Sprague said.
Reach J Swygart at 567-242-0464.