Governor Mike DeWine delivered his first State of the State address this afternoon in the chambers of the Ohio House of Representatives. This is the first time since 2011 that a State of the State address has been conducted in the Statehouse, as former Governor John Kasich broke years of tradition by taking the address on the road to locations around the state.
Governor DeWine encouraged bipartisanship throughout his speech, starting by saying that to move Ohio forward we must govern together. He stressed that he will be focused on promoting investing in Ohio – in children, Lake Erie, state parks, roads and bridges and other infrastructure.
Governor DeWine focused the first part of the address on the condition of the state’s roads and bridges and the need for increased investment just to maintain our current system. He called the current situation a crisis – noting that not only have resources dwindled, both at the state and local level, but that the buying power of $1 in 2005, the last time the gas tax was increased, is now only 58 cents. Governor DeWine said that the 18-cent gas tax increase proposed in the transportation budget bill, House Bill 62, is the minimum needed to maintain current conditions and allow for modest amounts of new work. He stressed that any decrease to the request will result in less maintenance and increased safety risks.
Governor DeWine then began outlining programs that will be included in his operating budget bill request with many familiar programs from his campaign including:
- Addressing lead paint poisoning, which Governor DeWine said stifles opportunities for young people;
- Tackling the infant mortality crisis, noting that Ohio is 49th in the country for African-American infant mortality rates;
- Improving funding for child services, foster and kinship care and education for children suffering from the state’s drug abuse crisis, including care for their parents and caregivers;
- Education for primary school children on addiction issues and making healthy decisions;
- Creating cross-agency efforts to confront the public health crisis of drug overdoses;
- Expanding treatment capacity for mental health and addiction services;
- Increased law enforcement task forces on drugs, including a state narcotics intelligence unit to work with local law enforcement agencies; and
- Increased drug courts to better identify options for drug offenders.
The Governor also discussed plans to better prepare Ohioans for the job market. He called for increased funding to invest in meaningful employment opportunities for Ohioans with disabilities. Governor DeWine also said that he has asked the public universities to provide students and their parents with a 4-year tuition guarantee to ensure that tuition does not increase over the course of a student’s college career. Also, that the community colleges and career-technical colleges will be working to create 10,000 new industry certifications over the next year. Governor DeWine also applauded Lt. Governor Jon Husted and the work of InnovateOhio to promote the use of technology and data to improve government services and connect to workforce development efforts.
For his final area of investment, he asked the General Assembly to work with him to protect the state’s natural resources by:
- Protecting Ohio’s state parks, natural areas and wildlife;
- Investing in a new H2Ohio Fund to fund long-term solutions as opposed to “lurching from crisis to crisis,” including fully funding Senate Bill 2, which would create a state watershed planning structure; and
- Creating an “all of the above” energy strategy for the state.
With the State of the State delivered, the Governor will deliver his version of the operating budget bill in the next week. By statute, as a first-term governor, Governor DeWine is allowed six extra weeks, until March 15, to prepare and deliver an operating budget to the legislature. The General Assembly will now focus on passing an operating budget bill, which must be in place by the end of the fiscal year, June 30.