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Mike DeWine and Nan Whaley lay out their vision for state and local infrastructure needs

Gov. Mike DeWine, Republican incumbent seeking re-election, and Nan Whaley, Democratic candidate for Ohio Governor.
Andy Chow/Daniel Konik

Mike DeWine and Nan Whaley emphasized the importance of investing in Ohio’s infrastructure while speaking to a group of regional planners and local government leaders.

The two took part — at separate times — in a forum hosted by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission and the Ohio Association of Regional Councils.

DeWine, the Republican incumbent, touted the moves his administration has made during his first four years in office. That included neighborhood revitalization investments, broadband expansion, and major road projects bolstered by the revenue generated from increasing the state gas tax by 10.5 cents.

DeWine said the state and local governments need to work together to best utilize the remaining dollars from the American Rescue Plan Act, federal funds DeWine opposed when it moved through Congress.

“We have to plan and we have to look and see where the holes are so that we can fill those holes. And in the state government, you know, to do that, we have to work with you and we have to work with all local governments. And that's, frankly, what we do,” said DeWine.

In her time on stage, DeWine's Democratic challenger Whaley said that as mayor of Dayton, she learned of the importance of partnerships between the state and communities. But she said federal money for projects like passenger rail may be blocked by Republicans in Columbus, as it has been before.

“If they don’t politically agree on it, even if it would help a community, the money is not allowed to come in the state. And that’s a real problem," Whaley said. "We need to put people and their communities first, not the politics first that we see so often at the Statehouse and in this administration.”

Whaley also said she still wants a six-month pause on the state’s 38.5 cent a gallon gas tax, with that revenue for road projects filled by the state’s rainy day fund, which now stands at $2.7 billion. Most Senate Republicans signed onto a billthat would eliminate the gas tax increase enacted last year. DeWine has said suspending the gas tax or the increase "would be a major, major blow" to the state's road projects.

After the forum, DeWine was asked about other proposals that request federal funds to address pressing issues for low-income people, such as food insecurity and affordable housing.

Food banks have asked for $50 million in federal COVID relief funds. DeWine said his office is reviewing all the proposals, but said they are looking at moving forward with a request of $15 million that could increase supplies at food banks.

“No decision has been made yet on that. But making sure that people have the food that they need is very, very important. And, you know, I had a meeting about ten days ago, I think, with many of the food banks and heard directly from those food banks. So it's something that's very important,” said DeWine.

DeWine added that getting that money through would take some act by the legislature, either through a bill or from the Ohio Controlling Board.

On food banks, Whaley said "they're in a crisis" but also that inflation has squeezed people, especially those with low-wage jobs.

"Those that are in the particular squeeze are the ones with kids that rely on the food banks the most, and the governor needs to step up and do the right thing," Whaley said. "If he cares so much about children, show it."

DeWine said he has not yet made a decision of whether or not he wants to join Whaley for a debate. DeWine said the people have been able to hear where he stands on the issues through his availability with the news media. He added that he still intends to participate in editorial board meetings with Whaley.

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