Gov. Mike DeWine

Infrastructure and water quality challenges outlined in State of the State

By Kolt Buchenroth, Ohio Ag Net

With northwest Ohio — and agriculture in general — still embroiled in a controversial water quality debate that spilled over from the previous administration, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine addressed the Buckeye State in his first State of the State speech on Tuesday, lasting 45 minutes.

The governor specifically mentioned Lake Erie’s Western Basin and the 2014 algae blooms in Toledo. He commended the work in the House and Senate to clean up the lake and promised to remain “dedicated to the long-term commitment to protect Ohio’s water quality for our children and grandchildren.”

Ohio Farm Bureau Director of State Policy Tony Seegers was glad to hear the mention of water quality by the governor.

“Water quality is something that we at Farm Bureau and folks in ag have been involved with and working towards for many years. We agree with the idea that the governor spoke about taking a dedicated, long-term commitment to protect our waterways. We are happy to hear him bring it up. It’s refreshing. We’re happy to also hear him talking about this H2-Ohio fund,” Seegers said. “It looks like it’s pretty much in line with what we have been looking to do, which is targeted solutions and permanence.”

The governor also committed to save the “jewel of Ohio” by funding Senate Bill 2, which allows for the creation of a statewide planning structure for watershed programs set to be implemented by local soil and water conservation districts. Taking it a step further, Gov. DeWine announced the H2-Ohio Fund in his proposed budget set to be released next week. DeWine said that the fund will develop long-term solutions and invest in safe, clean water across the state.

“We’re excited and happy to hear that it seems the governor has given his full support behind Senate Bill 2 going forward,” Seegers said. “Working with our folks on the ground in soil and water conservation districts and anyone else involved in water and watershed planning is very important.”

The Governor’s proposed 18-cent gas tax hike was clearly top of mind in his State of the State address. DeWine detailed Ohio’s deteriorating road and bridge infrastructure and the lack of funding to address the situation.

“A dollar of gas tax in 2005 now buys only 58 cents of road and bridge repair…Each year the roads and bridges get less and less safe,” DeWine said. “Now our credit cards are maxed out. We simply cannot borrow any more, nor should we. Some may think that if we do nothing, status quo, the quality of our roads will somehow remain the same. Let me assure you, that is simply not true. The money the State has borrowed — that same money that has been propping us up — has been spent. It is gone. And now that it is gone we are heading into a very dangerous point. We are about to see a dramatic reduction of the quality of roads in the state.”

Seegers was also pleased to hear the governor address this priority for Ohio Farm Bureau.

“We were really happy to hear infrastructure improvement and infrastructure funding. We think this is really important for our members, and it’s refreshing to hear Gov. DeWine talk about the need to face the fact that our Infrastructure needs improvement and needs a sustainable funding source,” Seegers said.

The governor also commented on public health — specifically opioids, mental health, and lead paint — career technical education, Innovate Ohio, and natural resource conservation.

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