COLUMBUS, Ohio– Tuesday, Ohio Republican Governor Mike DeWine addressed a joint session of the Ohio legislature in his first State of the State Address. While he covered several topics ranging from workforce development to infrastructure repair, the speech’s main focus was three key points; the gas tax, greater protections for children, and environmental action.
WATCH: Gov. Mike DeWine delivers his first State of the State speech: http://bit.ly/2H0CocrGov. Mike DeWine used his first State of the State speech Tuesday to push lawmakers to raise the Ohio gas tax by 18 cents to fix crumbling roads and dangerous bridges and to announce plans to focus on the state's deadly addictions epidemic and other health issues like infant mortality.
Posted by 10TV – WBNS on Tuesday, March 5, 2019
Prior to his remarks, DeWine was asked what, specifically, he would address. He did not mention the raising gas tax. However, almost half of the speech he gave focused directly or indirectly on the necessity of doing just that.
These are the essential facts: Our counties, cities, villages, and townships have seen their resources for road and bridge repairs dwindle and dwindle over the years. A dollar of gas tax in 2005—the last time the gas tax was raised—now only buys 58 cents worth of road and bridge repairs. And our local partners—townships, villages, cities, and counties—have received no relief for 14 years. Each year, their infrastructure degrades more and more. Each year, they fall further and further behind. And each year, their roads and bridges get less and less safe…by requesting $1.2 billion dollars to fill the budget hole and meet existing needs, let me assure you that I am taking a minimalist, conservative approach, with this being the absolute bare minimum we need to protect our families and our economy.
He aggressively asserted that raising gas taxes was essential to the future prosperity of the state, even as his own party has signaled hesitance, if not opposition, to the idea.
The second major focus was a series of programs aimed at protecting children from a myriad of dangers. Helping kids in abusive households, protecting kids from contracting led poisoning via led based paints, providing “wrap-around” services for childhood development and several other initiatives were all proposed. To underscore his point he noted some startling statistics:
It is wrong—it is unconscionable—that in 2019, there are still children whose opportunities and whose dreams are stifled because they live in homes where they are exposed to lead paint. Every year, thousands of Ohio children under the age of six test positive for unsafe lead levels. And undoubtedly, there are countless more who have never been tested at all and would test positive.
In 2017, nearly 1,000 babies in Ohio died in their first 12 months of life. That’s equal to all the children under the age of four living in either Vinton or Morgan or Monroe or Harrison Counties. Further, African American babies are dying at almost three times the rate of white babies, leaving Ohio ranked 49th worst in the nation for deaths of African American infants.
All of the statements about the protection of children were met with vigorous applause.
The last major focus of the annual address had to do with a series of environmental causes Governor DeWine is calling for immediate action on. He vowed to sign Senate Bill 2 (SB 2), which would raise the standards and regulations on water provided in the state. In addition, he announced the creation of an “H2-Ohio Fund.” This would be aimed at ensuring water projects had consistent funding. The ongoing pollution issues with Lake Erie have received national attention and remain an ongoing concern for the state and, as such, he pledged to do more to address the issue.
“We have so much to appreciate. And we need to support and expand efforts that are working to preserve and protect our state’s natural wonders—from Lake Erie to all our lakes and rivers,” he said.
As The Ohio Star recently reported, Toledo residents overwhelmingly voted in favor of passing a “Lake Erie Bill of Rights” referendum in late February that extends the legal rights of the Ohio Constitution to the body of water. As a result of its passage, one Toledo farmer has filed a lawsuit contending that the referendum is unconstitutional.
While the programs proposed by Governor DeWine are certainly ambitious, there was one clear omission: how would Ohio pay for any of this?
With the exception of briefly applauding Ohio Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks for cutting spending “everywhere he could,” DeWine was short on funding solutions. Aside from raising the gas tax, which he maintained would only be a stop-gap, no plans for additional revenues or budget cuts were articulated. This might explain the “long view” theme of his speech.
Throughout the entire speech, DeWine emphasized the “future and in the beauty of what was yet to be.” He told stories about great Ohio leaders who put the future first and anecdotes like his grandfather planting seeds he’d never see grow. As he noted, 1/4 of Ohioans will be over 60 by 2020. It can be inferred by this soaring rhetoric that he is suggesting that the returns of the future will justify the spending today.
The full transcript of Governor DeWine’s State of the State address can be found here.
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