OF THE two statewide issues on the May 4 primary ballot, one should be a no-brainer. The other is an anticipated consequence of not showing sufficient discernment in past elections.
People from Pioneer to South Point and Cincinnati to Conneaut agree: The Third Frontier program has been a beacon of light on a dark economic horizon. Voters who cast their ballots on May 4 for state Issue 1 will be voting for a brighter future for all Ohioans.
Conceived under Republican Gov. Bob Taft and continued by Democratic Gov. Ted Strickland, the Third Frontier program has wide bipartisan support in the General Assembly. It is backed by business, labor, and the academic community.
Since it began, Third Frontier has invested more than $500 million in emerging technologies, helping move cutting-edge ideas from the drawing board to Ohio factory floors. Some $40 million, considerably less than northwest Ohio's fair share, went to projects in this region. That inequity must be addressed in funding future projects.
Still, the $500 million in public funds attracted $3.7 billion in private investment and grants and resulted in more than 55,000 new jobs, even as the state struggles in the grip of the worst recession in generations. Ohio Business Roundtable predicts that increased tax receipts will pay off the initial investment by 2013. If you count new investment, new research, commercialization grants, and license income, the investment already has been paid back several times over.
Issue 1 will not raise taxes. It builds on the success of Third Frontier by allowing the state to sell bonds, raising $700 million for investments beginning in 2012. A YES vote on Issue 1 is a vote for Ohio's future.
Issue 2 is a proposed constitutional amendment that would change the site of the Columbus casino authorized by voters last November as part of their broader approval of four casinos, including one in Toledo. Columbus said no to extending gambling then, in part because voters there didn't like the downtown site chosen for the planned casino. A new location has since been agreed upon with the developers, requiring a new vote by everyone in Ohio to ratify the change.
In The Blade's opposition to gambling, we warned that approval of the casino issue could result in developers and lawmakers running to voters with every small change in operations, thus trivializing Ohio's Constitution. That process has begun and on that basis, we find this constitutional amendment distasteful.
Issue 2 could open a floodgate of less-desirable changes - reducing the tax on casino revenues, waiving the $50 million license fee, or lowering the promised $250 million minimum investment in facilities - if developers plead poverty in the face of a stagnant state and national economy. Voters can't be expected to stay informed enough to make those choices. That's why we have lawmakers.
The Ohio Constitution is being used to legislate more and more. The only way to stop that is to start saying no. That's reason enough, with apologies to those people in Columbus who never wanted a casino in the first place, to vote NO on Issue 2.