Ohio governor touts triple-A bond ratings in State of the State address

Celebrating Ohio’s “highest possible credit rating,” Gov. Mike DeWine on Wednesday delivered his State of the State address to the General Assembly at the statehouse in Columbus.

DeWine centered his speech around the children of the state, on whom he said the future depends. He gestured to his new great-granddaughter, Betty Jane, up in the gallery and promised to “ensure that all Ohio children have the opportunity to live up to their full God-given potential, and that they have the chance to pursue their dreams and their passions in life.”

As he looks to fulfill those promises, DeWine’s hand is strengthened by the state’s good credit standing.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaks at a news conference in February 2023. The governor delivered his State of the State address Wednesday touting recent rating upgrades that brought the Buckeye State to triple-A across the board.

Bloomberg News

Two upgrades in December, from Moody’s Ratings and S&P Global Ratings, brought Ohio’s state government to triple-A across the board.

S&P, in delivering the final upgrade, cited a “demonstrated commitment to active budget management and building and maintaining reserves through economic cycles.”

In his speech Wednesday, DeWine contrasted Ohio’s rating with that of the federal government, saying at one point, “I think we have all learned that we can’t depend on Washington.”

Fitch downgraded the U.S. government’s credit rating in August to AA-plus from AAA. In November, Moody’s revised its outlook to negative and affirmed the federal government’s Aaa rating. S&P has rated the U.S. government AA-plus since a 2011 downgrade.

The governor, a Republican, touted the new Childcare Choice Voucher Program, which he said will provide financial support to 8,000 Ohio kids. He vowed to allocate federal funding to dedicate $85 million to childcare access grants for improvements to existing childcare facilities. And he promoted Ohio Promise, a program in which early childhood professionals learn to teach children with disabilities.

DeWine also cited a collaboration between Nationwide Children’s Hospital and some local high schools that puts healthcare clinics inside schools, where, he said, “they have a significant impact not just on students’ health but on their academic performance.”

Such collaborations were expanded through the Appalachian Children’s Health Initiative, but DeWine asked every school in the state to adopt the model. He said Student Wellness and Success funds can be used to build clinics. 

The governor asked the legislature to change the current statute so that career planning is included in the existing high school graduation plan requirements. And he said it’s time to begin measuring how many students have jobs related to their degree within six months of finishing college.

The most fiery moments in a generally mild-mannered speech came when DeWine took on social media companies and smartphones, and when he railed against Delta 8, or gas station hemp, and flavored tobacco products.

“We need to go after the social media companies,” he said. “What they are doing is shameful.” 

In Ohio, the Republican Party controls both chambers of the General Assembly. At a press conference after the speech, Ohio House Speaker Jason Stephens, R-Kitts Hill, listed some areas where legislators could work with the governor but suggested that on certain issues, the legislature is further to the right than DeWine. 

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