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Published: Tuesday, 5/6/2014

State borrowing package gains approval


COLUMBUS — For the fourth time in 27 years, Ohio voters on Tuesday said “yes” to a state borrowing package to help local governments pay for road, bridge, sewer, drinking water, solid waste, and other public-works projects.

With a majority of the vote counted Tuesday night, Issue 1, the only statewide issue on the ballot, had a resounding support compared to the “no” side.

The $1.875 billion in borrowing over 10 years is a renewal and expansion of the State Capital Improvements Program.

It had the backing of Republican Gov. John Kasich and his Democratic rival Ed FitzGerald, nearly the entire General Assembly, business, labor, and local governments.

“Ohio’s successful public-works program will be extended 100 more years thanks to approval by Ohio voters, and this is good news for our local communities who rely on this support to improve their roads, bridges, and infrastructure,” Mr. Kasich said.

“I’m grateful for the broad, bipartisan leadership that helped us renew and strengthen this important program that creates jobs and builds stronger communities in every county of the state,” he said.

Lucas County has received $181 million from the capital improvements program since it began 27 years ago.

There was no organized opposition, but in the last few days before the election, the Ohio Libertarian Party and conservative 1851 Center for Constitutional Law urged voters to say “no” to again amending the state constitution to allow the borrowing.

“This is simply giving state government another credit card so they can hand out expensive favors to well-connected politicians and companies, while sticking taxpayers with a huge bill that will have to be paid for by tax increases over the next generation,” Libertarian Party Chairman Kevin Knedler said.

This marks its third renewal since voters created the program. The latest proposal, however, is $525 million larger than what was approved in 2005.

Aid to local governments in the form of grants and loans would climb from $150 million to $175 million annually for the first five years and then to $200 million for the next five.

Strong Ohio Communities, the committee largely funded by the Ohio Chamber of Commerce and the construction industry, reported raising $339,200 and spending nearly $128,000 as of late April to promote a “yes” vote.

Issue 1 is the latest in a series of borrowing packages to underwrite brick, mortar, and concrete projects across the state, in part to fuel construction jobs.

Lawmakers recently approved a $2.4 billion, two-year capital budget tied to government buildings, parks, universities, museums, and other projects.

Last year they gave the green light for what ultimately will be $1.5 billion in borrowing against the Ohio Turnpike, guaranteed by future toll collections, to help fund highway and bridge projects off the toll road corridor for the first time.

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

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