Valley reps cheer DeWine
Gov. Mike DeWine’s State of the State address focused on ways to improve Ohio’s economy and education system while also seeking to address mental health and law enforcement issues.
“We meet at a time of great opportunity for Ohio and its citizens,” DeWine said Tuesday. “Yet it is also a time of great challenges.”
Legislators from the Mahoning Valley gave high marks to DeWine’s speech, saying they are pleased with what the Republican governor proposed.
“I thought it was so solid,” said state Sen. Michael Rulli, R-Salem. “It was his best speech yet. I didn’t have an issue with any of it.”
State Sen. Sandra O’Brien, R-Lenox, said: “I was very pleased for the most part. I’m glad the governor wants to focus on economic development around the state.”
State Rep. Nick Santucci, R-Howland, said: “It’s very promising. What the governor outlined in his speech will benefit the Mahoning Valley in a positive way.”
Among DeWine’s proposals for the state budget is to use funding for the next-generation emergency 911 system that would route calls directly to local dispatchers. The system uses the GPS on a cell phone to get first responders to locations more quickly.
He will speak about that proposal during a Thursday visit to the Trumbull County 911 Dispatch Center.
DeWine said he wants to use a one-time allocation of $2.5 billion to “prepare the infrastructure of large economic development sites located in every single part of Ohio. With the development of these sites, every single Ohio citizen will be within commuting distance of at least one of these sites.”
DeWine also wants to invest $150 million to create new innovation hubs throughout the state to “bring together each community’s strengths to encourage more economic development and attract the very best talent.”
State Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, said he supports DeWine’s proposals to invest in other parts of the state besides the Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati areas.
“The entire state needs to be business-ready,” he said. “We want to have Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley’s infrastructure ready to go.”
Regarding the innovation hubs, Cutrona said: “My No. 1 focus is taking care of the Valley. To have strong infrastructure and job growth are my priorities for the area.”
How DeWine wants to finance all of his priorities is a key, said Cutrona. The large-scale, one-time allocations are likely coming from the federal American Rescue Plan, Cutrona said.
Cutrona said having him as well as state Reps. Mike Loychik, R-Bazetta, and Monica Robb Blasdel, R-Columbiana, all serving on the House Finance Committee gives the area “a great opportunity to have oversight on the budget.”
Santucci said: “Brownfield remediation will impact the Valley a lot. We have a lot of great potential sites in the Valley, but they’re not prepared. This will help us get those sites ready.”
State Rep. Lauren McNally, D-Youngstown, said DeWine “said a lot of things that were spot on. It was great he wants to spend money on lead pipe replacement and the expansion of the river initiative to clean up the Mahoning River.”
McNally also said she strongly supports DeWine’s proposal to eliminate the sales tax on critical infant supplies such as diapers, wipes, cribs, strollers and car seats as well as create a $2,500 per child state tax deduction.
McNally said DeWine’s proposed one-time investment to expand pediatric behavioral health care is a good start, but “what happens when it runs out?”
McNally also said DeWine’s plan to expand vouchers for charter schools is a bad idea.
DeWine wants to make more families eligible for EdChoice scholarships that could be used for private schools. DeWine wants to increase the eligibility threshold from 250 percent above the poverty line — which is $69,375 for a family of four — to 400 percent above the poverty line, which is $111,000.
O’Brien, who is sponsoring legislation to make EdChoice available to everyone, said: “Parental choice must be universal. There should be no income requirement.”
O’Brien said she strongly supports DeWine’s efforts to improve literacy in the state. DeWine said 40 percent of Ohio’s third-graders are not proficient in reading.
“That’s a travesty,” said O’Brien, a former teacher. “I support the governor in moving the curriculum with the science of reading.”
Cutrona said DeWine’s plan to invest $300 million for capital improvements and equipment for career technical education is a good idea.
But again Cutrona said he wants to know where the money is coming from to pay for that.
Santucci said, “I’m very pleased with the governor’s proposals. We’ve got a long way to go before it gets implemented. It has to go to the House and the Senate and then back to the governor. The state and the Valley will be in a better position because of his proposals. I’m very optimistic.”
Rulli said DeWine’s plan to give a $5,000 annual scholarship for four years to high school students who graduate in the top 5 percent of their class to attend a college or university in the state “was the highlight of the speech. That was the showstopper. It allows for excellence to be rewarded.”
Rulli also said he supports DeWine’s proposals to focus on mental health by building a community care system that increases prevention efforts, offers better crisis response service and treatment options, grows the behavioral health workforce and focuses on research and innovation.
“A lot of problems in our society is because of mental health issues,” Rulli said. “Mental health needs to be a focus, and he really shined when discussing that.”