Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has been re-elected but with no clear mandate or agenda for leadership in a second term. That said, there’s plenty that needs doing.
The governor ducked debates and used a huge fund-raising advantage to fill our TVs with video of the Intel chip plant’s groundbreaking. U.S. business is bringing manufacturing back to America, and Ohio’s inherent advantages make us competitive for the relocations. DeWine must do more than preside over the status quo.
If the governor really wants to help the people who elected him, residents of small towns, suburban, and rural Ohio, he will boost the Local Government Fund from the anemic 1.6% of general funds to a robust 5%. The state has cash reserves of $5.5 billion, while local governments struggle to afford basic services. Development goes to the already strong.
It would be a historic achievement for the DeWine administration to produce a transportation corridor between Toledo and Columbus. The progressively worse bottlenecks grown over the last 60 years impede commerce between the two cities and are a unique disadvantage to northwest Ohioans. The governor who solves this problem is a giant.
DeWine’s H2Ohio program, designed to thread the needle between protecting Lake Erie water quality and agriculture interests with runoff-causing algal blooms, needs more money and clarification that the lake is the first priority. DeWine should also throw the full support of Ohio government behind Congressional legislation offered by Toledo’s U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur to create a Great Lakes Authority to lend enhanced federal protection to our water resources. Kaptur is correct to worry about diversion to the arid West without such protection and needs all-out bipartisan support.
Given the bribery scandal associated with DeWine’s first term, it would be wise to reform Ohio’s ethics laws to become the best in America. Dark-money political action committees should be forced into transparency by Ohio law. Fees paid to lobby for Ohio laws should be public down to the penny. Outside earning by Ohio public officials should also be fully reported. To show seriousness, the penalties for violation should be treated as a nonviolent felony.
DeWine could propel the fast-growing solar industry through a repeal of state law that gives local jurisdictions authority over renewable energy installations. Solar panels and windmills need to be treated like oil, gas and electric and permitted at the state level. Fracking should not get regulatory assistance that is lacking for solar.
DeWine should ask the General Assembly to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot to resolve the question of abortion in Ohio, now that the Supreme Court’s Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision has made abortion law a state decision. Taking the lead on the question would avoid the complications of an initiative petition and lead to a quicker resolution. An issue of this consequence needs a vote of the people, and DeWine would be wise to facilitate the inevitable.
Finally, Ohio’s public pensions need reforms that bring down investment costs and improve investment results. DeWine should push lawmakers to repeal the law that gives pensions carte blanche power over investments and force them back into publicly traded fully transparent funds available for a fraction of the current costs.
There is plenty for him to do and make his mark on Ohio history.