The Senate made quick work of the new two-year, $2.4 billion state capital budget, passing it 30-1 yesterday and sending it to Gov. John Kasich for his signature.
The budget, funded largely through long-term borrowing, funds a variety of construction projects, renovations and repairs. GOP legislative leaders and the Kasich administration worked out the bill before its introduction, allowing it to pass quickly through both Republican-controlled chambers with no significant amendments.
The budget includes $455 million for higher education, including $83 million for Ohio State University’s Main Campus. The largest piece of Ohio State funding, $37.2 million, will go for Pomerene Hall. Columbus State Community College will get $9 million to increase the number of students taking online courses.
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 proposal includes about $160 million in community projects, local requests such as $15 million for the Veterans Memorial project and $500,000 for Nancy’s Place women’s shelter. It marks the first time in six years that a capital budget has included such projects.
“Some projects are small in size but will lead to significant regional impact,” said Sen. Scott Oelslager, R-Canton, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
The budget also includes $38 million to build two buildings at the Ohio Expo Center — construction that will help ensure the annual All American Quarter Horse Congress, which attracts many visitors to central Ohio, does not move the event because of inadequate facilities.
Sen. Tom Sawyer, D-Akron, called the budget “a good team effort” and particularly praised funding to protect state natural resources.
The overall capital budget is $541 million larger than the one from two years ago. Sen. Kris Jordan, R-Powell, cast the lone no vote.
Kasich officially signed the budget into law late last night to ensure it takes effect by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, so funding is not interrupted on a number of ongoing projects. Kasich, with Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman looking on, will hold a ceremonial signing today at the historic Reeb Elementary, which is getting $2 million in the budget.
By Jim Siegel - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
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