As he foreshadowed beforehand that he would, Gov. Mike DeWine dedicated most of his first State-of-the-State address to continuing to emphasize the priorities he talked about last year during his campaign or those he’s focused on since he took office in January. He delivered the speech this afternoon at the Statehouse in Columbus, the first State-of-the-State to be given at the Statehouse since 2011.
The connecting theme of his address was “investment.” He called for “investments” to be made in a variety of different areas approximately a dozen times during his 45-minute speech. Broadly, he said it’s time to invest in: Ohio, our children, our future, and things “where the returns will not be immediate”.
Of particular interest to Ohio employers experiencing workforce-related challenges, the governor made a commitment to investing more in Ohio’s career-tech centers and two-year community colleges. This effort would be part of what he characterized as the “most aggressive workforce development and worker re-training effort in Ohio history.”
Other, more specific investments he called for include: quality, early childhood education, in order to improve the likelihood that children born to at-risk moms will succeed; children services agencies; initiatives that increase employment opportunities for people with disabilities; and state parks.
He also previewed the creation of two new funds that will be unveiled as part of his upcoming budget package. One will be a public health fund to be used to increase public health awareness and prevention strategies in the areas of mental health and substance use disorders and recovery. The other will be called the H2-Ohio Fund. H2-Ohio Fund dollars will be invested in solutions to ensure safe and clean water.
Of course, given that the legislature is already in the midst of debating the governor’s proposed two-year transportation budget, Gov. DeWine tackled the subject of roads and bridges first. He made an impassioned push for his proposed increase in the gas tax to fund a $1 billion transportation funding shortfall, acknowledging that more infrastructure dollars are necessary to protect our economy. This position is shared by the Ohio Chamber.
As is typical in a State-of-the-State address, the governor’s speech was optimistic and high-level. Specifics of just how he plans to accomplish the priorities he highlighted today will come on March 15, when he presents his two-year state operating budget package. That’s where we’ll also find out what ideas and initiatives he has for improving Ohio’s business climate.
The Ohio Chamber will be working closely with both the DeWine Administration and the Ohio legislature on the development of the state budget in the coming months. Tweet us @OhioChamber or send us an email to let us know what you think of the priorities outlined today by the governor or if there are other areas you think he should have emphasized.