Husted talks state budget


During his State of the State address on Jan. 31, Gov. Mike DeWine unveiled the proposed executive budget that will guide his second term in office. During an interview with The Gazette on Monday, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted broke down key aspects of the budget and what he hopes to accomplish alongside DeWine in the coming years.

“The governor’s budget was largely about the economy, the workforce, families and kids,” Husted told The Gazette. “That’s where our primary focus has been. As I often say, if you can create some good jobs, and you can give some people the skills they need to get those jobs, you solve a lot of problems in life. That’s what we’re focused on.”

One of the highlights of the budget is the All Ohio Future Fund, which represents a $2.5 billion investment to prepare the infrastructure for large economic development sites all throughout Ohio. Husted credits the rise in economic development opportunities to companies wishing to create a domestic supply chain at a time when the global supply chain has become increasingly unstable.

“They want to make things in America, and these companies, when they’re searching for places to do it, they’re searching in states that have manufacturing competencies, and Ohio is one of them,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of successes with Honda and Intel, but we’re running out of space to put them. … We want to make sure that all of Ohio can participate in this. So we’re talking about using these funds to ready sites all around the state that will help to accommodate these business who want to move from overseas or the coasts because of what we have to offer. But if you don’t have the sites, the facilities, and the infrastructure, they won’t come.”

Of course, readying sites for future development is one of two critical steps in making Ohio a viable location for companies to explore in future plans. Husted noted that while the first question companies ask is centered around sites ready to be developed, the second question is always whether or not there is a workforce to tap into when sites are finished.

“Location and workforce are so essential to winning these deals and getting companies to expand here, so that’s why you see us so connected between what we’re doing with the workforce and what we’re doing with economic development. They’re really one in the same,” he said.

Included in the budget is a total of $300 million for growth in the state’s career centers, $200 million of which is earmarked for facility expansion either on site or with the addition of more sites as part of the Career Tech Construction Grant Program. Husted noted the increased interests in career centers and the subsequent lack of space, which necessitates expansion in order to ensure no student misses out on the future they choose to pursue.

“It’s $200 million to make sure that we don’t have waiting lists. We don’t want kids to not get access to the career tech field of their interests,” he said.

The remaining $100 million, which is included in the Career Tech Equipment Grant Program, will be dedicated towards the machinery and equipment necessary to facilitate the types of education offered at career centers around the state.

“That’s a big deal because we want more high school students to graduate career-ready so they can move right from school to a work opportunity,” Husted said of the two grant programs.

Asked about the growing demand for technical centers, Husted said it’s a result of a “convergence of events” beginning with increasingly more families seeing it as the best value in education and future earning.

“It’s not your mom and dad’s career centers anymore,” he said. “These are high-tech, high-opportunity institutions that more and more employers are knocking on their doors and saying we’ll hire you right out of high school if you have the right kinds of skills.”

Should the budget be passed, $5,000 scholarships will also be offered to high school students graduating in the top 5% of their classes and enrolling in a state university. Husted said the goal of the scholarships is to keep more of Ohio’s top minds in the state with the thought that if they remain in state, they’re more likely to work in Ohio and become the workforce of the future.

The investment in building a workforce to accompany the economic development in the state isn’t limited to students, however, according to Husted.

“Additionally, we are continuing to fund job training for adults through our TechCred program,” he said. “TechCred allows for any employer to up-skill any of their employees or perspective employees, helping them earn an in-demand credential. They pick the employee, they pick the provider, and we’ll reimburse them up to $2,000 for the cost of earning the credential. That means any Ohioan can go to work and up-skill themselves, helping them achieve more job security and higher pay.

“So that basically takes care of everybody, whether you’re a high school student or an adult already in the workforce. We’re going to help you earn more job skills to fill all these jobs because, right now, we have more jobs than we have people. We’re creating jobs faster than we can find people to fill them in Ohio.”

Husted went on to say of the plan and how they will correlate to each other, “If we do this, we will land additional big economic development projects that will fuel jobs for a generation or more. I know this will work because I know that on a monthly basis, we have companies calling and saying they’re looking at Ohio and want to know what we can show them. And right now, the list of places we can show them is limited because all of our prime development sites have been taken.”

Educational Choice Scholarship program to be expanded

In addition to the focus on advancing the opportunities students can seek at career centers, the proposed budget also includes the expansion of the state’s Educational Choice Scholarship Program.

The program, which was created by Husted in 2005, allows children and families in designated public schools to seek private school opportunities. At the moment, the program is limited to children coming from poor-performing school districts or in families that are 250% of the poverty level or less.

According to Husted, the program would be expanded to 400% of the poverty level as part of the proposed budget.

“It’s continuing to grow the program so that more families can choose the school that best serves their needs,” he said. “No public school can do it all, and it’s good to have choices that may align with a family’s value system or the learning style of that particular child.”

Husted added, “It started out as a program for children who are trapped in chronically failing public schools; they didn’t have any other choices. But it’s grown to include more families that may want those options that are not in a position. You may have two moms or dads who are working and have a good life, but the ability to spend $10,000 a year to send a child to private school is not in the cards from a financial point of view … It’s not a public versus private school conversation. You can’t expect the public schools to serve everybody according to the unique needs of every student. This just gives families more options.”

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