Stephens praises DeWine for investment

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 4, 2023

Issues statement following ‘State of the State’ address

COLUMBUS — Ohio House of Representatives Speaker Jason Stephens, R–90, praised Gov. Mike DeWine following his State of the State address on Tuesday.

“The Ohio House of Representatives looks forward to reviewing Gov. Mike DeWine’s priorities in more detail,” Stephens said in a statement. “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.”

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Stephens, of Getaway, represents the legislative district covering all of Lawrence, Gallia and Jackson counties. He was elected speaker of the House in January.

The wellness and opportunities of Ohio’s children drive a state budget proposal that includes offering a $2,500 child tax deduction, expanding school vouchers, investing in mental health and spending $2.5 billion to prepare large sites for economic development, DeWine said Tuesday in his address.

DeWine, a Republican beginning his second term, told the GOP-dominated legislature his upcoming budget plan would extend efforts to implement a fairer, more reliable school funding formula, something already incorporated into the previous budget.

The governor also proposed creating a new Department of Children and Youth Services focused on children’s physical and mental health, as well as foster care. He said the two-year state operating budget also would provide quality childcare for 15,000 more children and repeal the state sales tax on critical infant supplies, such as diapers, wipes and cribs.

Additionally, DeWine wants to provide $300 million in one-time funding for capital improvements and equipment for career tech education — an investment Democrats welcomed — and $5,000 a year incentive to students in the top 5 percent of their high school classes to remain in the state for college.

“We want our children to grow, to learn and ultimately live and work right here in the state of Ohio,” DeWine said. “And we know that the changes we have announced today will help them do that. Keeping our young people in Ohio has never been more important, as we create jobs faster than we can fill them.”

He called for creating an Our Ohio Future Fund that would spend $2.5 billion to prepare economic investment sites throughout the state, seeking for every Ohioan to be within “commuting distance” of such locations.

DeWine asked the Legislature to support creating the State of Ohio Action for Resiliency Network, or SOAR Network, to conduct a multi-year study on Ohioans’ mental health. The network would include counselors, social workers, psychologists, nurses and more to determine the most effective interventions and discover new ways to treat mental illness and addiction.

“We will do these things because they keep Ohioans working and our state thriving,” he said. “But we will also do them because it is simply the right thing to do.”

He also wants to fund an updated 911 system for emergency calls and allot $40 million a year to training law enforcement officers on topics such as de-escalation, use of force and crisis intervention for people with mental illnesses. Both provisions received a bipartisan standing ovation.

DeWine called the budget proposal “fiscally sound, spending one-time money on one-time expenditures.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.