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Ohio officials ask voters to approve $1.9B to 'shine up' public works projects

The list of speakers was long and the festival of love among the policy class was virtually boundless Wednesday in the Ohio Statehouse, where Gov. John R. Kasich said spending on public work projects like roads, bridges, water and sewers is needed to "shine up" the once industrial Titan, that along with many of its manufacturing neighbor states continue to wear the label "Rust Belt."

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John Michael Spinelli
Ohio Gov. John Kasich joined other legislative leaders Wednesday to tout the state's spending on local government infrastructure projects, as they asked voters to approve a fourth authorization to sell $1.9 in state bonds.
John Michael Spinelli

In about three weeks, on Feb. 5, Gov. Kasich will file required paperwork for reelection this year. Already in campaign mode, the great reformer governor, who has been a politician his enter adult life, hopes to win his primary, if he has one, on May 6, then move to the General Election six months later where he'll have to win in a landscape that includes his Democratic challenger, Ed FitzGerald, from Cleveland and possible third-party candidates like the Libertarian Party and Green Party.

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So while everyone in the Lincoln Room in the Statehouse today was fully aware of the high stakes going forward for Kasich, who has expressed an interest to jump back into national politics as he did in 2000 when he launched a campaign for president that fizzled out before it got started, political partisanship that normally determines who wants something and how it's done was absent, replaced by kind compliments of working together for the public good, at least as it pertains to building, repairing and maintaining public infrastructure projects and systems.

Supporting local infrastructure projects meets a critical need, Kasich communicators said in prepared handouts to reporters, that will renew and expand successful public works grants and loans to communities through the Ohio Public Works Commission [OPWC].

Since voter's approved an amendment to the Ohio Constitution in the late 1980s, which enabled the full faith and credit of the state to stand behind bonds whose revenues have been spent since then by OPWC, gap financing for local government infrastructure improvements such as roads, bridges, solid waste disposal, water supply, storm water collection and wastewater treatment has been a godsend for local governments.

The renewal of these bonds, which will be put before voters on the May ballot, would authorize $1.875 billion of funding over 10 years without raising taxes on Ohioans.

Companion resolutions—House Joint Resolution 9 and Senate Joint Resolution 6—were introduced earlier this month to help move the process along in each chamber.

"HJR 9 and SJR 6 are a vitally important investment for maintaining the infrastructure needs of our state and local partners by providing additional jobs and revenue as well as improving the safety of our communities,” Ohio House Rep. Kunze, one of today's speakers, said.

Since voters first approved the creation of OPWC, voters have seen fit to reauthorize it two previous times. Over the arc of its work, OPWC has provided more than $3 billion in assistance to local governments for infrastructure projects.

The program’s current bonding authority is set to expire soon, which was sufficient motivation that the General Assembly didn't waste time moving it through the legislative process so it can be on the May 6th ballot.

In one speech after another today, Gov. Kasich and legislative leaders emphasized that the state now is in a better position to renew this program because of smart budgeting policies that have resulted in a more positive financial outlook and the revitalization of Ohio’s Budget Stabilization Fund, otherwise known as the "rainy day fund."

"Our state has navigated through a very tough economy by tightening the belt and prudently managing,” Rep. Tim Brown of Bowling Green said. "Ohio now is in solid fiscal condition and able to reauthorize this important infrastructure funding."

Senate President Keith Faber, a strong lieutenant to Kasich, gave credit to the governor, whose leadership, he said, represented "strong fiscal stewardship" the governor later said was little different than a child who saves money in a piggy bank to spend later.

On issues like abortion or voter bills, partisan politics rules the day. But for the money that flows to all counties, cities and townships through OPWC, normal party-line votes just don't happen because everybody gets a reward for good participation.

Gov. Kasich, a seasoned performance politician, must win in the fall to keep his hopes of jumping into the 2016 GOP presidential primary alive. He used today's event to repeat his narrative that he fixed an $8 billion budget hole without raising the income tax—although he did raise sales and property and increased fees—and grew the state's economy, a scenario Kasich critics pan as hyperbole based on state and federal job numbers over his three years as chief executive.

Ohio to the power of K

Democrats agree with Kasich, who said on NBC's Meet the Press that Ohio's economy was stalled, but their view is that Kasich's long-held belief that reducing taxes, especially income taxes across the board, creates jobs has never proved itself to be true. Otherwise, they argue, President George W. Bush and a Republican-controlled Congress approved $2.3 trillion in unfunded income tax cuts, but overall job creation was among the lowest of any presidency going back decades. Democrats can rightly ask Gov. Kasich, what Republicans love to ask President Obama, "Where are the jobs?"

Ohio's unemployment rate of 7.4 percent is now above the national rate, a fact, Democrats try to remind voters about at every turn.

Good infrastructure, Gov. Kasich said, represents a measure of stability for business.

The news article Ohio officials ask voters to approve $1.9B to 'shine up' public works appeared first on Columbus Government Examiner.

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