Ohio Gov. DeWine touts career tech during Plain City visit

The governor also spoke about the transportation budget and the effort to impose a 60% supermajority for state constitutional amendments

By: - March 28, 2023 4:50 am

Gov. Mike DeWine checking out recent engineering projects from Tolles Career Tech students Andrew Brown and Braden Manning. (photo by Nick Evans, for OCJ)

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine kicked off the week Monday with a visit to Tolles Career and Tech Center in Plain City. The facility mostly serves high school juniors and seniors interested in trades with specialized, hands-on instruction. The governor has made boosting investments in career tech a budget priority.

During Monday’s tour he spoke with students using CAD software for engineering projects and others learning construction or welding. In one classroom kids busily packed equipment into a firetruck, parked just a few feet behind their desks. Other students roamed the halls in scrubs or police-ish uniforms on their way to classes in the pre-nursing or criminal justice programs.

Afterward DeWine touted the importance of specialized training and stressed that places like Tolles aren’t necessarily an off-ramp away from college.

“When a young person, student, goes to a career tech, it doesn’t mean they’re not gonna go to college,” DeWine said. “They may end up going to college. They may find a pathway here.”

“We talked to one young lady,” he added, “she wants to be an engineer. She’s getting hands-on practical experience here. She sees her pathway as going to Ohio State and getting a degree in engineering.”

The governor’s budget proposes a one-time, $200 million investment in upgrades for Tolles and the 40-plus other career tech centers around Ohio.

Transportation budget

While lawmakers debate that investment as part of the main operating budget, both chambers have already passed their versions of the transportation budget. Negotiators from the House and Senate will begin meeting soon to work out the kinks.

One measure lawmakers added to the spending plan would require railroad companies install wayside detection systems at regular intervals to help avoid derailments. DeWine said that’s “fine,” but he’s not putting a ton of stock in state-level efforts.

“What we have to recognize is that the federal government pre-empts most of these areas,” DeWine said. “So I have frankly put my attention towards the United States Congress.”

DeWine noted the measures filed in by Ohio lawmakers in the U.S. House and Senate. Those bills are very similar although not identical. Representatives from Pennsylvania and New York, meanwhile, have filed a measure that matches the one filed by Ohio’s U.S. Senators.

A measure the Senate stripped out of the transportation budget would complicate a planned railroad sale in Cincinnati. The city owns a rail line but wants to sell it and use proceeds for local infrastructure; state law says the city can only use the proceeds to pay down debt.

“Look, I think, ultimately, this is the choice of the people of Cincinnati,” DeWine said. “Do they want to own it and continue on as they have for 100 years or do they want to sell it? I think it’s ultimately their decision and that’s why we put it into our budget to enable them to make that decision.”

Constitutional changes

DeWine was wary, however, of wading into the debate over requiring a 60% supermajority to amend the state constitution.

Strictly speaking, it has very little to do with DeWine. The joint resolution must pass both chambers of the General Assembly with the support of 60% of members, but it doesn’t stop at DeWine’s desk before showing up on the ballot.

Backers of the supermajority amendment are also making a bid to bring back the recently eliminated August special election for their ballot measure. When lawmakers got rid of August elections — less than four months ago — they argued turnout was so low that it was effectively undemocratic to allow local governments put bond issues on the ballot.

DeWine didn’t take a specific position on election timing, but like Senate President Matt Huffman, he drew a link between the abortion and making it harder to amend the constitution.

“There’s, again, a lot of moving parts,” DeWine said. “It’s not just do you have a August election. It has to do with the 60% vote and has to do ultimately was a vote on abortion.”

“We need to have, in place, a law that protects life,” he added. “But it also needs to be a law that we can sustain, that will not be overturned by the vote of the people.”

Follow OCJ Reporter Nick Evans on Twitter.


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Nick Evans
Nick Evans

Nick Evans has spent the past seven years reporting for NPR member stations in Florida and Ohio. He got his start in Tallahassee, covering issues like redistricting, same sex marriage and medical marijuana. Since arriving in Columbus in 2018, he has covered everything from city council to football. His work on Ohio politics and local policing have been featured numerous times on NPR.