In a pair of separate 30-minute interviews, Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor and Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine drew a stark contrasts in how they would lead the Buckeye State if elected.
Both Republican politicians are vying for the GOP’s nomination in the May 8 primary election and will face in November the winner of a four-way Democratic primary election.
Taylor, 52, says she challenged the status quo from inside Gov. John Kasich’s administration. Taylor started her political career in 2003 when she was elected to the Ohio House and served two terms before being elected as Ohio Auditor. She served one term in that office before running as the No. 2 in Kasich’s gubernatorial bid in 2011.
DeWine, 71, has been a U.S. Senator and Congressman, former Ohio lieutenant governor, and former state senator.
Taylor and DeWine differ on how to make schools safer, and the role gun control plays in that objective.
Taylor said the way to solve the issue of making schools safer is to look at the root cause, and called the legislative actions — such as Kasich’s six-point plan —a “knee-jerk reaction” that reduces the rights of gun owners.
“‘Harden the targets,’ experts say,” Taylor said. “When you have gun-free zones, you really are welcoming the opportunity for somebody to come in and commit a horrible tragedy. … In fact, what we need to do is follow the laws that are on the books today, number one. Number two, we need to make sure in our school buildings … we have properly trained individuals in those schools that could take out a shooter if somebody were to get into the building.”
Taylor also said she would require every school district to develop a safety plan.
“It may include training and arming teachers, and I could support that if that’s what that local school district and that local community felt that’s what was best to protect their students and their teachers and their administrators in those buildings,” Taylor said. “It may include working with local law enforcement.”
DeWine says there needs to be a mental health professional in every school, paid for by the state.
“If you look back at the tragedy of these shootings, tragedies where you find many times that person gave a lot of indication they had a mental health problem and for some reason there was no intervention,” DeWine said. “This will help identify a child who has a problem and try to get that child help out into the community.”
He’d also make sure a school resource officer is in every school, which in Great Mills, Maryland an officer in the school “was able to stop the assailant and I assume saved a lot of lives.”
He also said getting more communities online “will make a difference.”
“We have worked hard to improve the (criminal record) system in the state of Ohio, but it is a challenge,” DeWine said, adding there are around 1,300 entry points where data is collected from a clerk of courts and sheriff’s office. “We have increased the automation and increased the technology, but we have about 10 percent that are coming in by paper.”
Opioids and heroin
DeWine touted his 12-point plan, which he introduced in October 2017, to reverse the trend of rising death tolls due to the opioid crisis. He said it starts with prevention in elementary, junior and senior high schools across the state.
“We will start with kindergarten through 12th grade every single year in every school in the state of Ohio, something that’s curriculum-, something that’s age-appropriate,” said DeWine. “We’re not going to talk to kindergarten kids about heroin, but we might talk to them about not picking up a pill, and wellness and health and good decision making.”
DeWine said he “took immediate action” to shut down shut down pill mills and charged doctors who “were nothing more than drug dealers.”
Taylor, whose sons became addicted to opioids and are recovering, said “government solutions don’t work” and will turn to the private sector to help fight the problem.
“What I’m proposing, instead, is a plan that will incentivize the private sector, for-profit, not-for-profit and the faith-based community to build out the continuum of care they know is necessary in order for those living in addictio0n to restore their lives,” Taylor said, saying her plan involves detox, intensive inpatient treatment and recovery housing “(to give) these individuals the ability to acclimate back into their community in a safe way.”
Part of this plan includes putting forward a bond issue asking voters for the resources to provide low-interest loans or grants to “incentivize the private sector to build out the continuum of care. They will be focused on outcomes, not inputs, which is exactly why the government solution doesn’t work.”
The last piece of this plan is to fund narcotics officers on the streets of Ohio because she’s “heard from too many law enforcement officers that they don’t have the resources they need to make the case to hold the drug dealers accountable.”
Taylor and DeWine both said they would end Medicaid expansion because it’s not financially sustainable, but while DeWine didn’t expand on what his alternative would be to replacing Medicaid expansion, Taylor said any reforms would include a mandatory work requirement.
“The vast majority of (those) 700,000 individuals, those individuals living in that expansion population are abled-body adults, and abled-body adults should be working,” she said. “And our efforts should be focused on getting those individuals back to work, but instead our social welfare programs our designed in a way that it incentivizes individuals to stay dependant on government.”
That plan also includes giving Ohioans the tools they need to be independent of government. But those who are on Medicaid expansion due to drug addiction, Taylor said, “There will be other options for them to seek services in my private sector solutions (plan).”
The replacement of the Brent Spence Bridge — that is vital to Ohio’s economy and is at the heart of the Interstate 75 corridor that connects Florida to Michigan — is a project President Obama campaigned on during his 2012 re-election, and it was one of the top two projects named by President Trump just days into his presidency in January 2017. But nothing yet has been done outside of talk.
DeWine said a replacement to the Brent Spence Bridge could not happen without tolls.
“Absent of the federal government coming up with a significant amount of money, I don’t know anyone who’s looked at this who believes we can build this bridge without tolls, user fees,” he said. “It would be nice to tell you that we’re going to build this without user fees, but there’s no money to do that.”
But the problem is the bridge is mostly in Kentucky, he said, and Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevins signed in 2016 a ban on tolls with a new Brent Spence Bridge.
Taylor said there needs to be a sustainable funding model to replace the Brent Spence Bridge, and that starts with public-private partnerships. She also calls this bridge “a significant priority.”
“Infrastructure, and in particular the Brent Spence Bridge, is vitally important,” she said. “We’ve got to come up with, and I will be prepared, to build in my first transportation budget, a sustainable model for funding infrastructure and using public-private partnerships way more than they are used today.”
Taylor said she will end Common Core and focus on “getting rid of some of these crazy tests.”
“It’s not about spending more money. It’s about utilizing resources that we have in the right ways, and restoring local control and allowing local communities to make decisions about what their curriculum looks like.”
She also said ensuring highly qualified teachers are in the classroom is a priority.
“If you have a highly qualified teacher in the classroom three years in a row, you overcome the obstacles because of poverty. The research is clear,” she said.
DeWine said the state is “going to be very open in trying to achieve equity, fairness but at the same time making sure kids that are growing up in poorer school districts aren’t left behind.”
“There’s been no budget that’s made every school district happy. I’m very open, but I think the bigger question is can we design a budget in a very tough budget time that has significant money for education, both for K through 12 and early childhood — which we’re not doing enough — and our universities,” DeWine said. “And the way we manage the rest of the budget is going to determine how much money we have for these things that are very much our future. Our kids are our future, we have to invest.”