COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio Republican Governor Mike DeWine is scheduled to give his first State of the State Address Tuesday, but don’t expect any major revelations from it. In an interview last week, the first term governor stated, “I don’t think you’ll find any great surprises,” adding:
We’re going to talk about the things that we’ve been talking about — early childhood development. We’re going to talk about the lead paint problem. We’re going to talk about public health issues. We’re going to talk about early childhood education, the drug problem.
While these points have shaped his tenure as Governor thus far, there are two areas he did not note but are likely be addressed.
The 18 cent gas tax outlined in his proposed Department of Transportation budget has been controversial at best. Should it pass, there will not be an incremental introduction of the tax. Instead, the entire 18 cent hike will go into effect immediately. Although there is a bipartisan consensus that something has to be done about the severe underfunding of road and bridge repair, the amount and effects have been called into question. The Ohio Speaker of the House, Republican Larry Householder recently stated:
So the situation that we’re in right now, Gov. DeWine has proposed an 18-cent increase on the gas tax and, in the House committee, we’ve knuckled down, looked through it, really worked on it. We think that that’s probably high. We believe the number is more around 10 cents to 12 cents as far as an increase that’s needed and we think that probably needs to be phased in over a period of three years.
Furthermore, the Ohio State President of the Senate, Larry Obhof has also raised questions of his own. State Senator Obhof has suggested that these tax hikes should be offset by decreases in the state tax rates, arguing;
But I think anything that we do, we ought to consider flattening out the number of brackets that we have. We had nine at the beginning of the last general assembly. We’re at seven now. It would be nice to bite off another one or two of those.
Whether or not their proposals will be adopted, the fact that two of the most senior members of the Ohio government, members of his own party, are questioning if not outright opposing one of the first major budget decisions of their governor’s first term clearly demonstrates that there are serious concerns about the future direction of the Republican party in Ohio.
The second major area that will likely be covered is the imminent closure of GM’s Lordstown Assembly Complex in Lordstown. Despite the efforts of DeWine and his predecessor, John Kasich, the plant is scheduled to close in 2019. While many were hopeful that GM could be convinced to keep the plant running, DeWine, despite multiple discussions with GM, seemed convinced that there is greater hope for the plant with a new operator.
Selling both the future of the Lordstown plant with another operator and the gas tax hike to Ohioans – as well as his own party – will be critical for the future of his term. As both of these issues are controversial, it will be incumbent upon him to craft a vision for the future of his term that justifies both of the decisions.
The speech is scheduled for Noon, Tuesday.
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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio Star. Send tips to [email protected].