In almost every election, the economy is considered the top issue. Both Republican Mike DeWine and Democrat Richard Cordray say they have plans to spark Ohio’s economy, which has come back from the Great Recession but has been lagging the nation in job and wage growth. In a continuing series the Statehouse News Bureau breaks down how the two major party candidates for governor stack up when it comes to key issues.
Ohio’s total number of jobs peaked at 5.6 million in 2001. The state has finally returned to that level, and in April Ohio’s unemployment rate hit 4.3 percent, a number not seen since July 2001. But history suggests another economic downturn is likely in the next few years. But each candidate says when he is governor, a tax hike won’t happen. In the final debate between the candidates, Democrat Richard Cordray said he’s been clear on that: “We don’t need to raise taxes in Ohio. What I will do is raise paychecks.”
Republican Mike DeWine has promised he won’t raise taxes, and said in that debate that his opponent will. “If you total up all the money Richard says he’s going to spend, there’s absolutely no way that you could do this without raising taxes. It’s abundantly clear that he wants to raise taxes,” DeWine said.
DeWine also plans to spend a lot in some areas, including the economy. His campaign released what it calls its “Prosperity Plan” this summer, which DeWine said is bold, aggressive, and cutting edge. “We’re reinventing job training. We’re incentivizing new innovators. And we are getting rid of needless government regulations. Under our plan, we are going to quickly train the skilled workforce of the future that Ohio’s businesses need," DeWine said.
DeWine said his plan will establish regional job-training partnerships among the 75 training programs across 12 state agencies. He’ll also push for more federal block grants for job training, create an app to match employers and potential workers, fund 10,000 industry certifications each year, and halt regulations that hurt business and job growth.
Cordray said there will be 1.6 million job openings in Ohio in the next decade. But by 2025, some 2 million Ohioans will lack the training they need to fill current jobs. He said his "Better Skills, Better Jobs” plan is centered more on workers than employers. “Workforce development has not put enough emphasis on getting people the skills they need to fill the jobs available. It’s been focused on helping employers find employees. But if the employees haven’t developed the skills needed, then it really isn’t helping employers fill those positions. And it’s not helping people get the opportunities that they want," Cordray said.
Cordray also wants more federal funding for job training, and said he’ll promote other educational choices along with college. And he also wants to base hiring for government jobs on more than just educational requirements.
As for DeWine’s plan, Cordray said at that final debate in Cleveland that unlike his own proposal, his opponent’s plan will only help those who are already prosperous. “How can you grow the economy without talking about small businesses and supporting them? How can you talk about growing the economy without investing in the infrastructure that we know has been deferred across this state, including access to broadband – an economic development issue in big pieces of this state – and investing in public transit, so people can get from home to work?" Cordray said. "Twenty-seven counties have no public transit.” Cordray has said he’d go to voters with what he called a “significant bond financing package” for public transit, infrastructure repairs and expanding broadband.
Meanwhile, DeWine has pointed to a key part of his plan - opportunity zones designated across Ohio in the federal tax bill passed last year. “We will double down on that. What we will do is say that we will have that same tax opportunity for people," DeWine said. "What that means is, there’s going to be more investment that’s going to be made. There isn’t enough government investment to invest in all our areas of Ohio. We have to have private. It’s going to pump money into those areas.”
Technology has become a big part of any discussion on the economy. One in 11 Ohioans have no access to reliable, affordable broadband at home, including a third of rural residents. DeWine’s campaign hasn’t detailed plans to expand broadband throughout the state, though he has talked up incorporating ideas such as autonomous vehicles and blockchain to make Ohio a “smart state”. Though Cordray has said those doing business in Ohio have to uphold the principles of net neutrality, he hasn’t included those other high-tech ideas in his list of priorities.