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Politics

STATE BOND ISSUE

Ohio seeks OK to borrow $1.875B for infrastructure

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    Issue 1, the sole statewide ballot question, seeks a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to borrow money to finance roads, bridges, drinking water, sewers and solid waste.

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Editor's Note: Supporters of Issue 1, the proposed bond issue for local public works project on today's ballot, had reported spending $128,000 as of late April. An incorrect figure appeared in Sunday's edition of The Blade.

4n1pothole-3

Issue 1, the sole statewide ballot question, seeks a constitutional amendment that would allow the state to borrow money to finance roads, bridges, drinking water, sewers and solid waste.

THE BLADE/LORI KING
Enlarge | Buy This Image

COLUMBUS — Ohio voters have not said “no” to a proposed bond issue placed before them by lawmakers in 11 years, and supporters of a renewal and expansion of a local public works program hope that trend continues Tuesday.

Issue 1, the sole statewide question on the primary ballot, asks voters to approve a constitutional amendment authorizing $1.875 billion in new borrowing over 10 years to provide loans and grants to help finance roads, bridges, sewer, drinking water, and solid waste.

Voters created the State Capital Improvements Program 27 years ago and renewed it twice. The latest proposal is $525 million bigger than the last program renewal in 2005. Annual spending would climb from the current $150 million to $175 million for the first five years and then to $200 million for the next five.

The last time a proposed state bond issue was rejected was in 2003 when 51 percent of voters said “no” to creation of the Third Frontier program to finance high-tech research and development. Two years later, it was the popularity of the public works program that helped to put Third Frontier over the top with 54 percent of the vote when they were paired together.

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Brown

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Strong Ohio Communities, the committee created to promote Issue 1, recently reported raising $339,200 for its effort and spending nearly $128,000 on such things as mailings, polling, and yard signs. The organization is heavily funded by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and the construction industry.

It’s been endorsed by the mayors of the state’s largest cities, including Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins.

State Rep. Tim Brown (R., Bowling Green) sponsored the House version of the resolution putting the question on the ballot. He once worked for the late U.S. Rep. Paul Gillmor, who pushed the program while a state senator.

“At the time, there was a lot of concern that the three C’s [Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati], because of their large number of legislators, were getting all the attention when it came to infrastructure,” Mr. Brown said. “The primary reason for devising this method of infrastructure improvement was so all areas of the state could have fair access to the dollars. As it has played out since 1987, that’s exactly what’s been done.”

Just two lawmakers, both conservative House Republicans, voted against the resolution.

But Maurice Thompson, executive director of the 1851 Center for Constitutional Law, suggested amending the state constitution for this purpose is not a good idea.

“Given recent spending increases at the state level, passage of State Issue 1 is likely if not certain to increase taxes, undermine Ohio’s balanced budget requirement, further expand already historically large state spending and indebtedness, create perverse political incentives and cronyism, legitimize the notion of state spending as a viable means of job creation, further clutter an already bloated-beyond-recognition section of the Ohio Constitution, and redistribute wealth from poor and middle-class Ohioans to wealthy out-of-state investors,” he said.

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.

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