New Ohio governor to deliver 1st State of the State speech

FILE - In this Jan. 14, 2019, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaks during a public inauguration ceremony at the Ohio Statehouse, in Columbus, Ohio. DeWine is expected to push for an increase in Ohio’s gas tax and promote efforts to fight the opioid epidemic Tuesday, March 5 in his first State of the State speech as governor. The Republican is also expected to highlight programs he’s advocated to improve the lives of children. DeWine is bringing the event back to Columbus following the decision by his predecessor, Gov. John Kasich, to hold seven of eight speeches in cities around Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo, Pool, File)

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Gov. Mike DeWine is expected to bolster arguments for raising the Ohio gas tax by 18 cents, promote programs to improve children’s lives and discuss plans for fighting the opioid epidemic in the Republican governor’s first State of the State speech Tuesday.
The speech will be the first such governor’s address in Columbus since 2011, following former Gov. John Kasich’s decision to take the State of the State on the road. Kasich delivered speeches in Lima, Steubenville, and Westerville in suburban Columbus, among other cities.
DeWine said his speech will mirror the initiatives he’s pushed since taking office in January. Those include creating the Office of Child Welfare Transformation to lead the state’s child protection and foster care efforts, and the RecoveryOhio Advisory Council to advise DeWine on mental illness and substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery support services in Ohio.
“I don’t think you’ll find any great surprises,” DeWine said last week.
Democrats are hoping to hear from DeWine about ways to boost the state’s economy and lower the unemployment rate of 4.6 percent, far above the national average of 3.9 percent.
“There’s no doubt we need to start bringing more jobs back, but we also need to make sure those jobs are paying a living wage,” said Sen. Kenny Yuko of suburban Cleveland, the top Senate Democrat.
Among DeWine’s biggest challenges: persuading lawmakers to back his proposed gas-tax hike.
DeWine’s transportation director has said contracts for road maintenance that totaled $2.4 billion in 2014 may drop to $1.5 billion in 2020, and a $1 billion gap remains in the department budget.
Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof is skeptical of the proposal, while House Speaker Larry Householder has acknowledged the need.