There is one statewide issue on the May 6 primary ballot in Ohio, and its importance should not be missed by voters. It involves local governments across the state, generating money to assist with major construction projects. Issue 1 would renew for 10 years the State Capital Improvement Program, a successful, bipartisan effort that has funded more than 11,500 projects since first approved by voters in 1987.
Passage of Issue 1 would allow the state to use general revenue funds to back bonds, providing $175 million in each of the first five years (beginning in July 2016) and $200 million a year for the following five years. That’s an increase from the current level of $150 million a year.
Issue 1 is affordable. It does not involve a tax increase and would keep the state safely below its constitutional debt-service limit. We recommend voting yes on Issue 1 on May 6.
Renewed twice, in 1995 and 2005, the capital improvement program disburses funds largely on a per-capita basis to 19 district committees. They apply state guidelines to select projects submitted by local governments in their area, funding up to 90 percent of repairs and replacements and up to 50 percent for new construction and expansions. In all of its years, the program has seen no hint of scandal.
A big reason for the popularity of the program is that local officials make the final decisions, often using the money to advance large-scale projects that might otherwise be delayed indefinitely. Without state support, it is estimated that 90 percent of the projects supported by the State Capital Improvement Program would never have been completed. Grants and loans cover a variety of infrastructure needs, including roads, bridges, water supply, wastewater treatment, storm water collection and solid waste disposal.
In all, Summit County, which forms a district, has received more than $185 million, the money crucial to projects such as the new Goodyear headquarters. The state money helps to leverage other funds, the $185 million part of projects costing more than $433 million.
Across Ohio, support for the program is strong, especially in the wake of deep cuts to local government funds made by Gov. John Kasich and his fellow Republicans in charge of the legislature. In a rare display of bipartisanship, the legislature, urged on by Kasich, voted to put the third renewal of the State Capital Improvement Program on the ballot with just two dissenting votes. Voter approval would ensure a smooth continuation of a program vital to economic development and the state’s quality of life.