The two-year, $2.4 billion state capital budget unanimously passed a House committee yesterday in what will be rapid movement through the two chambers during the next week.
The full House is expected to vote today on the budget, introduced a week ago to fund a variety of construction, renovations and repairs. The Senate plans to approve it next week.
“We have a ton of process with this bill, but it all happens up front,” said House Finance Committee Chairman Ron Amstutz, R-Wooster, describing the private, closed-door meetings where House and Senate Republican leaders worked out the bill with Gov. John Kasich. Doing so, he said, gets it finished “before it goes into a tailspin,” as happened with capital budgets several years ago.
“There are many disappointed parties. Nevertheless, there is a lot of good lift being provided,” Amstutz said.
Democrats offered one amendment to the bill — requiring JobsOhio to issue grants for industrial cleanup projects instead of loans — but it was rejected because, Amstutz said, it was not part of the original bill agreement.
The proposal includes about $160 million in community projects — local requests such as $15 million for the Veterans Memorial project, $1 million for the Columbus Zoo and $1 million for the Franklin Park Conservatory butterfly house. It’s the first time in six years that a capital budget has included such projects; the total is about $40 million more than previous amounts.
The budget also contains $444 million for road, bridge, water and sewer projects; $236 million for state and local parks; and $675 million to build or renovate K-12 schools.
The bill is being passed quickly so it can be signed and take effect by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, in order for funding to continue on a number of ongoing projects.
The capital budget is $541 million larger than the one from two years ago. The majority of the bill, about $2 billion, is funded through long-term debt.
Once enacted, Ohio’s debt as a percentage of the general revenue fund will be over 4 percent, below the legal maximum of 5 percent.
By Jim Siegel - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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