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Published: Friday, 11/7/2003

Shot down on Frontier

When Ohio voters defeated Governor Taft s “Third Frontier” bond issue in Tuesday s election, they weren t saying no to high-tech jobs.

On the contrary, thoughtful Ohioans understand that the state s heyday as a forest of smokestack industries is waning. More and more, our economic success hinges on employment in the technology sector, tied to a program of higher education that prepares workers for this future.

What the voters saw through in knocking down the state issue was a false promise - that state grants to high-tech enterprises would bring prosperity to all corners of Ohio.

Indeed, the Ohio Ballot Board should not have been party to the publication of what essentially was a lie by proponents of the issue - that approval of the measure would “help create thousands of high-paying jobs in every region of Ohio.” In fact no such assurances were contained in this long-winded ballot issue.

In the end, voters realized that there really were no guarantees and that any jobs that might be created via the $500 million bond issue would mostly benefit only a select few areas, mainly those near the state s major university centers, which already are comparatively well off.

Other regions, from Lucas County in the northwest to Meigs County in the southeast, would get the leftovers, the crumbs of prosperity, as seems to be traditionally the case in this state.

Although the final margin of the bond issue s defeat was relatively small, its repudiation was widespread. The issue carried in only 15 of the 88 counties, despite endorsements from most Ohio newspapers.

The Blade was the only major daily in the state to oppose it. As we have emphasized, we aren t against high-tech jobs, either. We are, however, keenly aware of how the Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati axis continues to be showered with the greater share of the state s governmental largess. This bond issue was tailor-made to benefit the “Three Cs.”

The issue also became a referendum on the leadership of Governor Taft, who was featured in the multimillion-dollar television campaign supporting it. By that measure, Mr. Taft s future aspirations for elective office have not been enhanced.

Perhaps voters were still smarting from the imposition of the temporary increase in the state sales tax, which many Ohioans associate with the man some now refer to as “Governor Taxt.”

The next time the governor or the legislature seeks a constitutional amendment promising economic gains to all parts of Ohio, the equitable distribution of benefits must be spelled out in the text. Otherwise, Columbus, don t even ask for the votes of the have-nots.

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