Following Governor Mike DeWine‘s State of the State address in the Ohio House chamber on Tuesday, Ohio lawmakers in the House and Senate voiced their opinions.
DeWine centered his address on his budget proposal. The proposal will be presented in the Ohio House in the near future as a piece of legislation that the Ohio General Assembly will need to approve.
The governor’s proposals received praise from the Republican leadership in the Ohio House and Senate in their responses to his State of the State address. They did, however, note that they still needed to review the specifics.
DeWine’s speech centered many of his plans around education and improving the well-being of children and families.
“It opens the door to good jobs. But really, it opens the door to life,” DeWine said.
DeWine explained how his new spending plan will mandate the Ohio Department of Education to create strategies to guarantee that all students have the “best opportunity to master the skill of reading.”
His budget would devote added funds to the EdChoice Scholarship Program, which gives low-income families, as well as those from underperforming school districts, tuition assistance for their children to attend participating private schools.
The new funding would make the scholarships available to families at or below 400 percent of the federal poverty level. According to DeWine’s ideas, students would gain from significant investments in career tech centers later in their studies.
Additionally, DeWine suggested offering need-based financial help to students attending community schools or regional universities. If they enroll in an Ohio university as well, the top 5 percent of high school students will receive a new $5,000 annual award.
Other ideas put forth by the governor will also affect Ohio families outside of the classroom. A $2,500 tax deduction for each child and the removal of sales tax on items like diapers would benefit parents.
DeWine also wants to spend $2.5 billion preparing commercial and industrial locations around the state for investment.
“Every single Ohio citizen will be within commuting distance of at least one of the sites,” he pledged, by the time he is finished.
State Representative Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) spoke positively about DeWine’s emphasis on literacy and called the proposal to expand EdChoice scholarships, “a good step in the right direction.
He projected that the site development fund would draw interest and perhaps excitement.
“We want Intels in every corner of the state,” Merrin said.
Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) also said DeWine’s initiatives pleased him.
“One word, I’m delighted with what the governor talked about today. There are obviously many details that we have to work out,” Huffman said.
He cautioned that there was still a long way to go and that the Senate would be the last to make modifications. Huffman, however, praised the governor’s early childhood initiatives.
“Whether it has to do with the sales tax, tax deductions, the supportive private placement adoptions, these are the practical things that really help people to have children,” Huffman said.
On the proposed expansion of the EdChoice scholarship, he said “practically speaking” it’s the same as the universal vouchers envisioned in the ‘backpack bill.’ Huffman asserted those scholarships will actually save money because the dollars following a student are less than per pupil costs.
“Anybody can take a picture in time and say, well, this money is leaving and this money’s here, so it’s a loss, but over a period of time, this saves money for the state budget and it saves money for the taxpayer,” Huffman said.
Huffman also provided his opinion on the governor’s proposal for a state low-income housing tax credit. The Senate President says he is most concerned that the funds go towards building homes for individuals rather than apartments.
Some of DeWine’s recommendations, such as the abolition of the state sales tax on baby products, were well-received by Democrats.
“I will remind everyone that those are Democratic ideas. In fact, things that were introduced last year. So obviously, we are supportive of that. Does it go far enough? Absolutely not,” State House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) said.
State Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) credited DeWine for addressing infant mortality and strengthening access to Medicaid. But she says they need to do more to help those who will be falling off Medicaid this year. And she said “comprehensive reproductive health care” needs to be part of that healthcare.
“It’s a step in the right direction and we are going to look forward to seeing further investments in that program,” Antonio said.
State Representative Terrence Upchurch (D-Cleveland) said he also found several of the governor’s initiatives to be encouraging.
“I was encouraged by some of the priorities presented by the governor such as police reform and maternal and infant health,” Upchurch said.
Democratic lawmakers met other ideas with skepticism, such as expanding EdChoice vouchers. Additionally, they opposed the notion of law enforcement training and reform without initiatives to reduce gun violence.
After the address, moderate House Speaker Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) avoided questions from the media but released a statement supporting DeWine’s investment suggestions and urging a long-term strategy to assure sustainability.
“The Ohio House of Representatives looks forward to reviewing Governor Mike DeWine’s priorities in more detail. I applaud the investment in the people of our great state. Good fiscal stewardship requires that we must look beyond a two-year budget cycle to ensure sustainability and solvency for the State of Ohio. It’s time for the People’s House to get to work,” Stephens said.
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Alex Triantafilou applauded DeWine on his ” historic State of the State address and positive vision for Ohio’s future.”
“Thanks to Governor Mike DeWine, Lt. Governor Jon Husted and Republican legislative leaders, Ohio is home to boundless opportunity for new businesses, families, and children. We look forward to building on their successful efforts to cut taxes, grow our economy, and train skilled workers to fill the in-demand jobs of tomorrow,” Triantaflou said.
The budget proposed by DeWine is only the beginning. The budget plan for 2024–2025 will be a topic of debate for lawmakers in the upcoming months. Lawmakers must approve a final version by June 30th.
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Hannah Poling is a lead reporter at The Ohio Star and The Star News Network. Follow Hannah on Twitter @HannahPoling1. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Mike DeWine” by Mike DeWine.