Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine calls for more focus on education, children, mental health issues
Gov. Mike DeWine, a Republican, focused on the Ohio budget and the issues he believes need the most attention during his State of the State address.
DeWine was welcomed by members of the Ohio House and the Ohio Senate in the House chamber at noon Tuesday.
"Our future is bright — but that future will be defined by how well we educate all our children and how we tear down the barriers to their success. We are challenged as never before, because at no time in our history has the full education of all our children been more important," DeWine said to begin his address Tuesday.
DeWine said the budget he is presenting to lawmakers during his address "reflects the moral imperative we have to see that all Ohioans are fully educated."
Although he is going into his fifth year as governor, this is only DeWine’s third State of the State address. His first address happened in 2019, but the speech was canceled in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Early childhood development and education
Early in his address, DeWine focused on his budget proposals to improve early childhood development and education. He said his spending plan includes more money to fund schools for reading literacy, expand home visitation for new and expectant mothers, and increase access to “safe, stable housing” for pregnant and new mothers.
DeWine said his budget also seeks to repeal the state’s sales tax on “critical infant supplies.” He said that includes diapers, wipes, cribs, car seats, strollers, and safety equipment.
New Ohio department for children's issues
DeWine said the issues impacting the lives of children in Ohio are too important to “leave scattered throughout multiple agencies.”
To change that, DeWine announced Tuesday the creation of a cabinet-level agency called the Ohio Department of Children and Youth.
According to DeWine, the new department would consolidate programs from six different state agencies to follow: the physical health of mothers, infants, and children; children’s behavioral health and the early identification of and intervention in mental health needs; kids in foster care; and early childhood education.
Economic development and job sites
DeWine touted the different economic development deals that have come to Ohio in recent years, such as projects with Intel, Honda, and Smucker’s.
“We’ve celebrated groundbreakings, expansions, and investments all over the state,” said DeWine.
The key to these projects, according to DeWine, is for the state to have attractive sites ready for development.
“We simply don’t have enough shovel-ready, development-ready sites for the kind of calls we are getting from companies all over the world,” said DeWine.
DeWine said, to counter that challenge, he announced a one-time investment of $2.5 billion “to prepare the infrastructure of large economic development sites located in every single part of Ohio.”
He said. “With the development of these sites, every single Ohio citizen will be within commuting distance of at least one of these sites.”
Renewed focus on mental health issues
DeWine said his budget will take on mental health issues by funding initiatives that can lead to better care for those with mental health conditions, reduced suicide rates, and decreased drug overdoses.
He said the budget he is releasing would build a “community care system” and offer “better crisis response services and treatment options.”
DeWine announced the proposal to create the State of Ohio Action for Resiliency Network — or the SOAR Network — to make a “meaningful change” the state must figure out the “root causes of mental illness and addiction.”
“For the truth is — from research to treatment to understanding the biological, cultural, and situational aspects of mental illness — we have not, to this point, brought things together in a cohesive way,” said DeWine.
DeWine said SOAR will be a multi-year research effort that includes Ohioans from all regions of the state to help launch “new discoveries about the brain and resilience.”
DeWine warns of 'uncertain leadership'
DeWine ended with a message to lawmakers about “unclear and uncertain leadership.”
The State of the State comes as Ohio House Republicans continue to fight over caucus leadership. Rep. Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) is the speaker of the House. He won with 22 Republican votes and every Democratic vote.
Rep. Derek Merrin (R-Monclova) fell short in his race for speaker but still earned the support of more Republican members than Stephens, more than two-thirds of the caucus. Both Stephens and Merrin have declared themselves the leader of the House Republican caucus.
DeWine did not specifically mention Stephens, Merrin, or the House leadership fight. But he said the Bible warns of the dangers of unclear and uncertain leadership and cited scripture that called this as an “uncertain trumpet.”
“For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself for the battle?” DeWine said, quoting scripture from 1 Corinthians.
DeWine has said he does not intend to get involved in that leadership fight and that he plans to work with every member of the legislature to pass the budget bill and other legislation he views as a priority.
Other issues DeWine mentioned as a priority in his budget included investments to encourage housing development for lower-income families, a task force to study quality of life and quality of care in nursing homes, $40 million annually for continuous law enforcement training, and water quality improvement projects for Ohio’s rivers as part of the new H2Ohio Rivers Initiative.