Wednesday, August 15, 2018

DeWine Lays out Gubernatorial Platform to Regional Councils

Republican gubernatorial candidate Attorney General Mike DeWine told a packed room Tuesday morning that, while he is not an expert in all areas of public policy, his administration will rely on the state’s thought leaders to tackle persistent challenges ranging from transportation infrastructure to Lake Erie water quality to the opioid crisis if he is elected.

Followed by Democratic opponent Richard Cordray Tuesday afternoon (see separate story, this issue), DeWine addressed a “meet the candidates” forum hosted by the Ohio Association of Regional Councils (OARC) in downtown Columbus. The attorney general and former U.S. senator answered a series of questions on his campaign platform that also covered issues such as workforce development, job creation and PK-20 education.

DeWine acknowledged that many Ohioans including millennials have a very different view about life in the state’s major population areas, including how they get around.

“We’re seeing these cities fundamentally change. You have many people that live in an urban setting today that don’t particularly want a car,” he said.

“I don’t pretend to be the expert in transportation. You’re going to find people in the state of Ohio that know more about this than we know about this. I’ll provide the judgment, the leadership.”

DeWine said the economic development implications of the state’s infrastructure requires more than readily available transportation to and from work. “It’s also helping companies grow.”

At the same time, he acknowledged the possibility of a “looming economic crisis,” in the words of OARC, with the mass retirement of baby boomers and skilled workers.

“By 2025, 65 percent of our workforce population needs to have a high school diploma-plus something. Today, we’re at 43–44 percent. We have a lot of work to do,” he said.

As he often has in the recent past, DeWine said that starts with a PK-20 system that incorporates vocational awareness in the first years of early childhood education.

“Government impacts what happens in the state every day. But the government and the Legislature also impact what happens way, way out,” he said, noting not all youth should be college-bound.

“There are other kids with other skill sets, other passions, other burdens,” he said. “We want all those kids to have all the tools they need for the American dream.”

DeWine was asked whether the state’s algal bloom problem is serious enough to warrant “reasonable regulations” on agriculture, or whether farmers’ compliance should be strictly voluntary.

“What’s at stake is Lake Erie,” he said, framing his answer. “Sometimes we have to remind ourselves how important it is. It’s one of the greatest assets we have,” both economically and environmentally, he added.

DeWine recalled that he worked to clean up Lake Erie and expand area wetlands while in Congress and would rely on “science-based” solutions to the watershed problem.

“My commitment to you … is that I will lead in this area. It would certainly appear that what we’re doing is not getting it done,” he said, acknowledging competing concerns for the environment and farming as an important natural resource. “Agriculture has to be part of the solution. Somehow, we’ve got to reach that balance.”

DeWine said his plans for another mostly rural part of the state, Appalachian Ohio, will require some changes to the Clean Ohio program.

“Development-ready sites are particularly lacking,” he said of Southeast Ohio, noting companies often won’t wait on the current requirement for private capital before a site is remediated. “We’ve got to clean some sites up before we have anybody to come in and buy it, or we’re going to have some of these sites forever.”

Another issue DeWine frequently addresses on the campaign trail is an end to the opioid epidemic, which he continued to say must be led by “grassroots” efforts at the local level.

“Those grassroots, anti-drug groups work. Churches have to be involved,” he said, acknowledging hard dollars are also needed. “We don’t have a lot of money in the attorney general’s office, but we’ve put some money out there. Our obligation is to help foster those things that are happening at the local level and replicate them.”

The attorney general told OARC representatives why he believes the state of Ohio can accomplish these platform priorities under his watch.

“The governor has the best bully pulpit to talk to people in the state than anybody does,” he said.

DeWine spoke with the press outside the forum, waving off questions about his son, Ohio Supreme Court Justice R. Patrick DeWine’s, recusal from the ECOT appeal. He also spoke about U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s past campaign donations to his opponent Richard Cordray, a former member of the same Washington law firm as Kavanaugh.

“I’m very excited about this nomination,” DeWine said of President Donald Trump’s Monday announcement. “Kavanaugh is extremely well qualified for this job. Not only has the president been consistent with who he has put on the Supreme Court, he’s done the same thing with the district court and circuit court.”

DeWine was pressed for more specific funding priorities for some of his platform agenda items, including transportation infrastructure. He said to expect a task force of experts but not specific spending plans in the near term, including any question of a gas tax increase.

“I’m not really going into what should be on the table and what should be off the table,” he said.

On ECOT, DeWine reiterated his commitment to recouping taxpayer money from its founder. “We will not stop until we have done absolutely everything we can.”

He also acknowledged that the drug epidemic is creating related challenges for Ohio’s Medicaid safety net.

“We’re going to have further discussion about Medicaid this week,” he said, affirming its central role in treating the opioid-addicted. “We will not let that go away.”

DeWine was similarly forthcoming about county children’s services, which he suggested would be a budget priority. “Ohio is just not doing enough,” he said.

He also affirmed his commitment to President Trump’s immigration policies -- with a qualification.

“We’re going to follow the law in the state of Ohio. We’re not going to have sanctuary cities. That’s ridiculous,” he said, parting company with the administration’s recent policy on undocumented families: “We can’t be separating children from their families,” DeWine said.
Story originally published in The Hannah Report on July 10, 2018.  Copyright 2018 Hannah News Service, Inc.

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