Next stop the ballot.
A joint resolution to place an issue on the May ballot to continue funding for the State Capital Improvement Program has received bipartisan support in both chambers of the legislature.
The program is administered by the Public Works Commission and provides financing for local government infrastructure improvements, including roads, bridges, sewer systems, water treatment plants and other projects.
Voters first approved the ballot initiative in 1987 and it has since been twice re-authorized.
State Representative Tim Brown (R- Bowling Green) co-introduced a resolution in the House calling for a ballot issue to re-authorize the issuance of general obligation debt of $1.875 billion for 10 years.
“Recognizing that local governments, like our state government, have faced difficult times in the past few years, this resolution seeks to increase annual funding from $150 million to $175 million in the first five years of this renewal and $200 million in the last five years,” Brown said. “Safe and well maintained infrastructure can help drive economic activity for our state.”
State Senator Randy Gardner (R- Bowling Green) also backed a resolution in that chamber, that was approved by a 31-0 vote.
“This gives the voters of Ohio the opportunity to speak on this program, to decide what’s best for their communities,” Gardner said.
He said the program maintains the state’s “conservative bond debt tradition” so that local governments are assisted without tax increases.
An analysis by the Legislative Service Commission estimates if the state issued $175 million in bonds annually in fiscal years 2017-2021 and $200 million each in fiscal years 2022-26 with a maturity of 30 years and a 4.5 percent interest rate, the total cost of debt service would be about $3.5 billion. Spread over 30 years, the annual payments would range from $10.7 million to $115.1 million, depending on market interest rates.
A limit of 5 percent on the amount of general revenue fund-backed debt the state may incur in a fiscal year was written into the state constitution in 2000. The debt limit may be waived by voters or a three-fifths majority vote of each chamber of the legislature, according to the analysis.
In a Jan. 8 memo to the Senate Finance Committee, Suzanne Dulaney, executive director of the County Commissioners Association of Ohio, said the public works commission has played an important role in infrastructure development and improvement projects.
Citing figures from 2006-11, she writes that about $1.02 billion were distributed in grants, loans and credit to counties, municipalities, townships and sewer districts:
• Roads - $485,882,711
• Bridges/culverts - $72,806,295
• Water supply - $154,997,852
• Wastewater collection - $291,997,852
• Solid waste - $2,085,665
• Storm water - $65,023,337