COLUMBUS - State lawmakers have resurrected the idea of allowing local governments to band together to create regional authorities centered on a single transportation priority with the power to tax to make the project a reality.
A 29-member state task force focused on the problems of urban centers like Toledo issued a report yesterday that targets vacant inner-city buildings, the need for a dedicated but yet unidentified funding source for mass transit, and more regional cooperation.
"There hasn't been a focus on urban development in many years in Ohio," said Rep. Peter Ujvagi (D., Toledo), a member of the bipartisan Compact with Ohio Cities Task Force.
Much of the report repackages bills and proposals that are in the legislative pipeline to some extent, such as a six-month moratorium on home foreclosures by banks, creation of county land banks to acquire vacant and abandoned foreclosed properties, and renewal and expansion of the popular Third Frontier program that invests in high-tech and biomedical research and job creation.
Rep. Peter Stautberg (R., Cincinnati) served on the task force, but he did not agree with many of the recommendations.
In particular, he said he opposes the six-month moratorium on foreclosures.
"I do agree with the recommendation that we should further study important areas, including cooperation among various governments and how we maintain our roadways," he said. "The critical takeaway from this report is that major issues face Ohio cities. I disagree that these problems can be resolved through the legislation proposed."
The report also dusts off a controversial proposal floated last year during debate on the state's two-year transportation budget.
That proposal would authorize up to 24 regional transportation innovation authorities built around a single road, interchange, bridge, rail, or other transportation project.
It failed to make the transportation budget.
The transportation innovation authorities could consist of local governments, economic development authorities, and business groups that could raise money through a regional tax or a toll on the completed project.
House Speaker Armond Budish (D., Beachwood) said yesterday the TIAs would be a priority of his caucus this year and allowing tolls would be apotential funding option.
Mr. Ujvagi, however, said the proposal does not envision allowing an authority to improve and add tolls to an existing road. The only toll road authorized is the Ohio Turnpike.
Mr. Ujvagi and Lucas County Treasurer Wade Kapszukiewicz were the only northwest Ohio members of the task force, which included lawmakers, local officials, and representatives of "smart growth" development groups.
The task force's chairman, Rep. Mike Foley (D., Cleveland), said the report emphasizes that the transportation innovation authorities would be structured around areas that have highway, rail, water, sewer, and utility infrastructure in an effort to discourage sprawl.
"The preference is for jobs to come back to the urban communities," he said. "Getting people to their place of work and around the cities is really important."
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