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Saturday, September 20, 2014
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Published: Sunday, 4/6/2014

EDITORIAL

Yes on Issue 1

Voter approval of the ballot plan will help Ohio communities meet their most urgent public-works needs

Public works — roads, bridges, water and sewer lines, solid waste disposal facilities — aren’t the most thrilling topics. But the soundness of basic infrastructure goes a long way toward determining a state’s capacity for job creation and economic growth, as well as its residents’ health, safety, and quality of life.

Voter approval of State Issue 1 on next month’s primary election ballot will enable state government to continue to provide needed financial aid to communities for critical infrastructure projects, without raising taxes. The proposal also would create an estimated 3,500 construction and related jobs. It merits a YES vote.

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Issue 1 would renew the public works bond issue for the State Capital Improvements Program (SCIP), which voters approved in 1987 and extended in 1995 and 2005. The program has made more than 11,500 grants across Ohio; Lucas County and all of its communities have gotten funding for vital infrastructure repair and construction projects.

Among the major local initiatives that are receiving aid from SCIP, Lucas County Engineer Keith Earley told The Blade’s editorial board, are the McCord Road underpass in Holland and a sewage storage basin in Toledo that will help keep the Ottawa River clean. “We could not have done these projects without that funding,” Mr. Earley said.

Issue 1 authorizes the state to borrow as much as $1.875 billion through bond sales over 10 years, to support public works projects.

Because the state constitutional amendment that created SCIP requires the state budget to include money to repay the bonds, no tax increase — state or local — will be needed.

Issue 1 aid will pay as much as 90 percent of the cost of public works repair and replacement projects, and as much as half the cost of new projects. Michael Miller, director of the Ohio Public Works Commission, which runs SCIP, notes that every dollar the program invests in projects leverages more than a dollar in additional local, state, and federal aid.

The process SCIP uses to evaluate projects and make grants relies on independent review panels. That discourages political pork-barrel spending and focuses on the most-critical infrastructure projects, while ensuring that no community or part of the state is slighted. The ability of communities to determine their own needs, instead of having Columbus impose its preferences, benefits all Ohioans.

The brutal winter Ohioans have just endured has brought into stark relief the deterioration of roads and other public facilities across the state. They require extensive improvements, at a time when local communities such as Toledo are scuffling for money because of deep cuts in state aid and the continued effects of the Great Recession.

Approval of Issue 1 would increase Lucas County’s annual SCIP allocation from about $5 million to more than $6.7 million.

This is a good time for Ohio to borrow money for public works projects: Interest rates remain close to historic lows and the state’s credit rating is high. “People think they save money by not spending on infrastructure,” Mr. Earley said. “But it costs them money.”

Issue 1 has attracted bipartisan political support, along with the backing of labor unions and business lobbies. It has no organized opposition.

Such advocacy reflects the success and cost-effectiveness of Ohio’s capital improvement program, which strengthens communities and creates jobs.

To maintain progress in both areas, vote YES on State Issue 1.



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