DeWine brushes over economy

Gov. Mike DeWine’s State of the State address lasted an hour and only once did he utter the word “economy” — and it had little to do with Ohio’s economy.

While outlining a number of his education initiatives early in the speech and right after talking about child care access grants, DeWine said: “By doing all of these things, we will help more families. Businesses will find more workers, and Ohio’s economy will thrive.”

That was it.

In a copy of the speech, provided by DeWine’s office, there is a section called “accomplishments” toward the end. The section is a mere eight sentences, all ending with exclamation points though the governor didn’t really yell any of it when he delivered the State of the State address.

He said, “Members of the General Assembly, we have accomplished big things together! So it’s really no wonder that Pennsylvania — as Gov. (Josh) Shapiro put it — ‘is sick and tired of losing to friggin’ Ohio!’ Ohio’s unemployment is at historic lows, the job market is booming and, unlike the federal government, Ohio now has the highest possible credit ratings! We are a national leader in aerospace! We are making great progress protecting our precious Lake Erie and other waterways through H2Ohio! We have an outstanding state fair that we are making even better thanks to your investments! In just a few short weeks we will open Ohio’s 76th state park — Great Council State Park in Greene County! And Ohio’s Hopewell Ceremonial Earthworks are now officially a UNESCO World Heritage site!”

In comparison, during his 2023 State of the State address, DeWine devoted 21 paragraphs — and only three exclamation points but not even one “friggin'” — to “workforce / jobs / economic development.”

During last year’s speech, DeWine said: “There is no question, Ohio is on the move! In the last four years, 48 companies left the east and west coasts for Ohio, creating more than 14,000 new jobs, $1.1 billion in new Ohio payroll and $24.9 billion in new capital investment.”

He proposed the “All Ohio Future Fund” that would have invested $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.”

When the state Legislature got done with the budget, it slashed funding for that program to $750 million. That’s a lot of money, but only 30% of what DeWine requested.

The guidelines for the program were announced in December with the application process recently opened. No funding has been awarded to date.

Maybe that was part of the reason DeWine avoided talking about economic development.

Another key factor likely is last year’s speech was right before the state’s biennial budget. The General Assembly won’t vote on another state budget until 2025.

However, the state is sitting on a very large amount of money — unspent federal COVID-19 dollars and the state’s “rainy day fund” — that could be spent to improve economic conditions.

The governor’s decision to not discuss economic development during the address left a number of Mahoning Valley legislators, including his fellow Republicans, puzzled.

State Rep. Al Cutrona, R-Canfield, said: “Where he fell deeply short is addressing the everyday problems that Ohioans face: inflation, rising costs and the major issue of rising property taxes. He didn’t address economic development or workforce development.”

State Sen. Michael Rulli, R-Salem, said he “was a little surprised he didn’t really touch on economic development.”

When I asked state Sen. Sandra O’Brien, R-Lenox, about it, she declined to comment.

State Rep. Nick Santucci, R-Howland, said it was curious that DeWine didn’t discuss the topic, and listed economic development — specifically the “cleanup and redevelopment of former industrial sites” — as something “we still have a long way to go to address.”

State Rep. Lauren McNally, D-Youngstown, said: “We’ve made zero steps forward as a state this year despite having a record amount of money at our disposal to do so.”

She blamed the Republican-led General Assembly for “a year of inaction.”

Have an interesting story? Contact David Skolnick by email at

dskolnick@vindy.com. Follow him on X, formerly Twitter, @dskolnick.


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