By Wayne Gates –
Ohio Attorney General and unofficial candidate for Ohio Governor Mike DeWine met with Republican Party members and elected officials at Southern Hills Career and Technical Center on March 31.
Prior to the Brown County GOP Lincoln/Reagan Day dinner where he was the featured speaker, DeWine spoke to the group about local and state concerns.
The state budget was at the top of the discussion list for both DeWine and those attending the meeting.
“I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the budget not as Attorney General, but hopefully as the future governor. And the biggest question is what is going to happen with Medicaid,” DeWine said.
Ohio Governor John Kasich chose to accept increased Medicaid payments from the federal government as part of the Affordable Care Act. When those payments stop, DeWine said the state could face a budget shortfall of $500 million dollars.
“So much depends on the economy. If things are moving, your tax revenues are up and maybe there aren’t as many social costs. When things are moving the other way, revenues are down and your costs are up,” DeWine said.
Regarding economic development, DeWine said the formula for success is clear.
“I think the principal job of the governor is to focus on jobs. My commitment to you is that I am going to focus on jobs in this state. We have to take care of the small businesses that are already here. That’s the most likely place for new jobs to come from.”
To do that, DeWine said “We are going to try to keep taxes reasonable and down. We are going to try to keep regulations rational.”
He added that there is a price to pay for overregulation.
I think we need to keep our eye on the ball. Part of that is making sure we don’t have regulations that don’t make any sense or aren’t doing anything. We don’t want to drive businesses out of the state of Ohio. We want to create a climate where people say we can grow a business here.”
Tight local budgets were also a topic of conversation.
Brown County Commissioner Barry Woodruff told Dewine, “Our jail is more than packed. Our courts are more than packed. As a commissioner, you get your brains beaten out and you don’t know where to turn next.”
In response, Dewine said, “I think in the long run, we need to look at this and see what we can do to restore some of the local government funds. I can’t make any promises because I don’t know where the economy is going to be, but I can tell you that I get it. I understand. Candidly, no one has spent more time in small counties in the last thirty years than I have.”
He then referenced a policy by the Ohio Department of Corrections that requires counties to keep lower level felons in local jails rather than send them to state prison.
“The one thing I will not do as governor is force counties to keep fourth and fifth degree felons at the county level. If your judge makes the decision to send someone to prison, they need to go,” DeWine said.
He closed his remarks by talking about how the drug problem in Ohio is affecting society at every level.
“Part of our challenge in this state is how do we get out in front of the drug problem. And there is no easy answer. We have a supply problem but we also have a demand problem.”
DeWine said he was in favor of age appropriate drug education in schools starting as early as possible.
He also touched on another way that drug addiction is straining the state budget.
“We are seeing the problem not just in the number of people dying, but the number of kids who in foster care. Half of all the kids in this state are in foster car because one or both parents have a drug problem,” DeWine said.