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Governor DeWine sees transporation funding cliff

GONGWER NEWS SERVICE   02.01.19  6pm

Governor: Transportation Infrastructure Funding 'Cliff' Coming

A state report set for release next week will paint "a pretty grim picture" of the status of Ohio's transportation infrastructure, Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday.

The governor's comments Friday came after he spoke at the Ohio Township Association Winter Conference where he warned that the state is heading toward a "cliff" when it comes to transportation infrastructure funding caused by the end of the revenue stream from bonding future turnpike revenues.

"We have a serious, serious problem in regard to revenue," he said.

The release of the report will coincide with the first meeting of the Governor's Advisory Committee on Transportation Infrastructure, at which ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks will be the first witness to testify. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, January 28, 2019)

The meeting will mark the beginning of a conversation about a problem of a magnitude the governor said he was not fully aware of before taking office.

Upon learning of the extent to which transportation infrastructure funding is lacking due to several factors, Gov. DeWine said he was "shocked."

Nonetheless, he said he owes the people of Ohio a candid assessment of the situation.

While Turnpike revenue is one factor in the dearth of funding, so is the proliferation of alternative fuel vehicles, automobiles with greater fuel efficiency and a stagnant gas tax rate. Lawmakers' opinions on how the problem should be addressed vary widely. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, January 18, 2019)

Speaker Larry Householder on Friday also addressed the need for a solution during a sit down with reporters. (See separate story)

The governor reiterated to township officials that tackling the opioid crisis will be a top priority for his administration. However, he warned that even if the state gets the opioid crisis under control, illicit drug use will always be a problem, noting that methamphetamine use is now on the rise.

But Gov. DeWine said the problem can be curtailed with age-appropriate education for children beginning early on and continuing throughout their primary and secondary educations.

"The evidence shows that we've got to start in kindergarten," he said.

He also plans to attack the problem by expanding multi-jurisdiction drug task forces and making treatment more readily available.

As for another major issue facing all local government entities – cuts to the Local Government Fund – the governor made no promises, saying he does not have a magic wand to restore all of the funding immediately.

"We're not going to be able to solve every problem you have," he said.

Gov. DeWine also praised the township government model, saying there is no government closer to the people.

"This is a state of local government," he said. "We kind of like it that way."

HANNAH NEWS SERVICE 02.01.19    6pm
DeWine 'Shocked' at Severity of Transportation Funding Problems

Local government officials and other Ohioans will likely be stunned when they discover the extent of the financial difficulties the state faces with regard to transportation infrastructure, Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday.

Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Director Jack Marchbanks will discuss the issue in detail next week during testimony before the Ohio Governor's Advisory Committee on Transportation Infrastructure, DeWine told attendees of the Ohio Township Association's (OTA) winter conference at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.

"It was a problem I knew about before I became governor, but I really did not understand the full extent of it. Frankly, next week when our ODOT director testifies about this problem I think you're going to be as shocked as I was when I first got the briefings from ODOT. We have a serious, serious problem with regard to revenue," DeWine said, noting that funding from Ohio Turnpike bonds has run out.

"We're headed to a cliff," DeWine said.

Speaking with reporters following his remarks, the governor declined to go into further detail on the problems, deferring to Marchbanks' forthcoming presentation before the advisory committee he created earlier this week. (See The Hannah Report, 1/28/19.)

During his speech to OTA conference attendees, DeWine also discussed his plans to address the opioid and methamphetamine epidemic and his ideas for expanding early childhood education opportunities for those growing up in difficult circumstances. He said he will be a "good partner" with OTA, but noted he wouldn't be able to "immediately" restore dollars to the Local Government Fund.

Answering questions from reporters on other issues, DeWine said he was happy to see so many women elected to the General Assembly in 2018.

"I think it's a good thing. I think it's always helpful to have the best people you can find, and that's what we tried to do with our cabinet. We have a very diverse cabinet, and it is a cabinet I'm very proud of. Having more diversity in the state Legislature is always a very positive thing. I'm happy to see it," DeWine said. "You want the state Legislature to more reflect Ohio, and we want our cabinet to more reflect Ohio, and those are always good things."

DeWine said it's "important" for the federal government to avoid another shutdown.

"These shutdowns are not helpful. I'm hopeful that we won't have another one," DeWine said, declining to weigh in on whether he agrees with President Donald Trump that there is an immigration "crisis" on the southern border that might require a "state of emergency" declaration to begin building a physical wall.

"I'm not going to go down that path. We'll talk about our challenges here in Ohio," DeWine said.