Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine prioritizes children and families in his budget spending plans for the next two years.
“It’s a budget that focuses on our people, on our families and our children, for they are truly Ohio’s greatest asset,” DeWine said during the 2023 State of the State address Tuesday to the Ohio General Assembly that highlighted the first budget of his second term.
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Starting with children, DeWine said he is focused on improving literacy, reducing infant mortality, improving access to quality child care, to make it easier for families to adopt children in Ohio.
“For Ohio to be the best state in the nation to raise a family, we need to do whatever we can to support families,” DeWine said.
To ease the financial burden on new parents, the governor is seeking a repeal of the state’s sales tax on critical infant supplies, such as diapers, wipes, cribs, car seats and strollers.
The governor is asking state lawmakers to enact a $2,500 per child state tax deduction.
DeWine also is proposing a new cabinet-level agency, the Department of Children and Youth, to have a sharp focus on children’s issues and consolidate programs from six different state agencies.
The new department would focus on the physical health of mothers, infants and children; children’s behavioral health; children in foster care; and early childhood education.
And so, in our budget, I am proposing the creation of a new Cabinet-level agency, called the “Department of Children and Youth.”
“We’re excited by the prospect of this new department and what it will mean for children and their families,” he said.
Reading unlocks the door for all future learning and provides a lifetime of opportunities, DeWine said. However, today 40% of Ohio third-graders are not proficient in reading.
“I am calling for a renewed focus on literacy — and on the way we teaching reading in the state of Ohio,” he said.
The budget directs the Ohio Department of Education to lay out a curriculum plan informed by research and evidence to make sure students have the best opportunity to master the skill of reading.
The budget also expands eligibility in the EdChoice scholarship program to families at or below 400% of the federal poverty level.
And to reach more students and provide better training for 21st century jobs, the budget will invest $300 million of one-time funding for capital improvement and equipment for career technical education.
For those headed to college, for the first time ever, the state will provide need-based financial aid to students who enroll in community colleges or university regional campus.
The budget also expands the need-based Ohio College Opportunity Grant to $6,000 per student, renewable for four years.
To reward academic excellence, students in the top 5% of high school graduating classes will be rewarded with a $5,000 a year scholarship, renewable for four years, for those who choose to attend a college or university in Ohio.
“We want our children to grow, learn, and ultimately live and work right here in Ohio,” DeWine said.
Job growth, economic development
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 nearly $25 billion in new capital investment, DeWine said.
“Ohio, which has a rich history in automotives, has also become an emerging force in electric vehicle and EV parts manufacturing,” he said, with Honda’s new EV battery plant coming to Fayette County in addition to Ford choosing Avon Lake for the assembly of its commercial electric vehicle and General Motors selecting Toledo for its electric vehicle propulsion plant.
But the state doesn’t have enough shovel-ready, development-ready sites — such as the $20 billion Intel computer chip manufacturing plant coming to Licking County — to meet the demand of companies calling from all over the world.
“We want all regions of the state to participate in Ohio’s economic revival, and for all Ohioans everyone the state to benefit from it.,” he said. “Every region in the state has good sites; however, many of them are not yet ready for development.”
This is why the budget creates the All Ohio Future Fund, which is a one-time $2.5 billion investment to prepare the infrastructure of large economic development sites in all parts of the state.
“With the development of these sites, every single Ohio citizen will be within commuting distance of at least one of these sites,” DeWine said.
The budget calls for building a community care system focused on prevention; improved crisis response and treatment options; growing the behavioral health workforce; and much-needed research and innovation.
But to make a meaningful change, DeWine said it’s time to engage the best and brightest minds in Ohio to approach mental health care more holistically, from research to treatment to understanding the biological, cultural and situational aspects of mental illness.
To that end, DeWine is calling for the creation of the State of Ohio Action for Resiliency Network, or the SOAR Network, for a comprehensive and multi-year research study that will include an interdisciplinary research team of counselors, social workers, sociologists, nurses, psychologists and medical doctors from across the state.
“It will help us support our most vulnerable citizens, by figuring out how to most effectively reduce the risk of suicide, addiction and overdose and by investing in additional evidence-based initiatives that we know work,” DeWine said. “We will do these things because they keep Ohioans working and our state thriving. But we will also do them because it is simply the right thing to do.”
In addition to more resources for body-worn cameras, the budget will include $40 million each year for training for Ohio law enforcement on topics ranging from de-escalation to use-of-force to crisis intervention for someone with a mental illness.
“Training matters, and it makes a difference,” DeWine said.
The budget also will fully fund the Next Generation 911 system in every Ohio community.
For most 911 systems in place, cellphone calls do not go directly to the local dispatch center.
“However, the Next Generation 911 system routes calls directly to local dispatchers and uses your cellphone’s GPS to more quickly get first responders to your exact location,” DeWine said.
The budget also will pay the monthly fees for any first responder agency that uses the Multi-Agency Radio Communication System, known as MARCS, to make it easier to communicate across jurisdictions.
Other budget highlights include:
Affordable housing: Low income housing tax credits and single family housing tax credits are programs aimed at stimulating the construction of more housing for families, and the Ohio home ownership savings account program will allow Ohioans to save for down payments with reduced state taxes.
Nursing home care: A state task force will study the issues of quality of life and quality of care in nursing homes.
“This matter is urgent, and I will give this group a short timeline to report back to the people of Ohio,” DeWine said.
H2Ohio rivers initiative: The H2Ohio program, which has been focused on the algae bloom problem, will be expanded to the entire state to work to improve the quality and health of rivers, which are critical for wildlife habitat, infrastructure, drinking water, economic development and recreation.
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