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Published: Thursday, 10/6/2005

Toledoans urged to support $2B ballot issue

BY TAD VEZNER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Bruce Johnson Bruce Johnson
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The state's second-in-command visited Toledo yesterday to promote a multibillion-dollar bond issue the Taft administration will ask Ohioans to approve in November, but he remained vague about dollar amounts that might be allocated to projects in this area.

Lt. Gov. Bruce Johnson pitched the $2 billion initiative, known as Issue 1, as essential for job growth statewide. He urged members of the Regional Growth Partnership and the Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce to support the measure locally.

"We're not trying to create an impression that this is driven by Columbus. It needs to be driven by the rest of the state," Mr. Johnson said during a luncheon at the Toledo Club. "The key element is strong local support."

While Mr. Johnson touted the initiative's relevance in potentially helping to develop a proposed technology "corridor" being promoted by University of Toledo officials and area politicians, he did not mention any specific dollar amounts that would be allocated to any Toledo projects.

The initiative proposes spending $1.35 billion on road and infrastructure projects - a $100 million increase over the last such initiative - and $150 million in community grants for cities wishing to build "job-ready sites." Such areas would include office parks and manufacturing facilities that could then be marketed to businesses to lure them to stay.

Finally, the issue includes $500 million for Governor Taft's "Third Frontier" initiative, which supplies funding for technology research and development, infrastructure, and commercialization.

In particular, Mr. Johnson said the state's ongoing investment in fuel cell technology would reap large rewards in the future.

In 2003, Governor Taft attempted a similar $500 million, technology-based bond proposal that was defeated by Ohio voters. Mr. Johnson said he believes the latest initiative will be passed Nov. 8 because there is "more urgency in the economy" and "more of an understanding about the need for innovation in Ohio."

After the luncheon, UT President Dan Johnson said that he supported Issue 1 because of the university's commitment to alternative fuel research. He also outlined preliminary plans for the technology research and development "corridor" that would center on Toledo and stretch south to Findlay and north to Ann Arbor and Detroit.

The Regional Growth Partnership's board of directors has endorsed the ballot initiative. Jan Aguilar, a chamber of commerce spokesman, said the issue has yet to be brought before the chamber's board of directors for endorsement consideration.

Contact Tad Vezner at:

tvezner@theblade.com

or 419-724-6065.



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