Analysis of the New “Jobs Ohio” Proposal. This morning, Governor Strickland, House Speaker John Husted and Senate President Bill Harris held a 10:00 a.m. press conference to announce their bipartisan agreement on a jobs stimulus package, similar to the package outlines in the Governor’s State of the State speech and supported by the League. Though the financing of the package is much different from that outlined by the Governor, the proposal does address many of the same items. The total spending included in the new package is $1.57 billion, as opposed to the Governor’s $1.7 billion. There is one piece of the package that will have to go to the November ballot. The Clean Ohio program expansion of $400 million will require the voters’ approval for $200 million of that expansion, which will be funded by General Obligation Bonds. The other $200 million in bonds for the Clean Ohio Expansion will be funded by state liquor profits, which as non-tax revenue do not require voter approval. The program also includes the very immediate increase, over two years, of $400 million in state infrastructure bonds (Issue 2) to be allocated by the Ohio Public Works Commission in conjunction with the long-standing “local integrating committees.” That is an additional $400 million over the $120-$150 million per year, which was already approved by voters in 2005. Dollars for this new funding for local infrastructure projects will come from a combination of a realocation of Ohio Turnpike funds, an $80 million infusion into the OPWC program from tobacco settlement dollars and an OPWC “double cycle” of funds. This last funding source, some may recall, was done once before in the early 1990’s. Through it, the state allows for the awarding of the equivalent of two years of OPWC funding in one construction year. This additional funding would not need voter approval, but much of the proposal does have to go through the General Assembly for its approval. While the Governor’s proposal for $200 million for downtown revitalization did not survive in the compromise, the proposal does include an expansion to $120 million for the Historic Preservation Tax Credit. That proposal, for credits often used in downtowns, would include some readjustments that would ensure more regional equity for obtaining those credits. The bipartisan proposal also includes, through a variety of funding mechanisms that require legislative action, but not voter approval: $100 million for funding logistical and distribution infrastructure that will help Ohio businesses that move and distribute products. These dollars might include rail, road and port projects. $50 million for the support of bio-based industries. These industries create products, such as plastics, out of Ohio grown crops. $100 million for support of the biomedical research and industry. $150 million for advanced and renewable energy projects, in area such as wind, solar and clean coal. In addition to the above programs, mentioned in the Governor’s original package, this jobs program would also create the Higher Education Workforce Initiative. The cost of that program, over five years, would be $250 million. In concept, this program will try to encourage students at Ohio colleges and universities to not only study in Ohio, but lay down “workroots” in Ohio, the kind of roots in the Ohio workforce that keep young people in Ohio after their studies. The program, most likely through actions of the Ohio Board of Regents, will work with Ohio’s private employers to establish internships and other “learning jobs” to create those workroots in Ohio. The state would encourage the creation of those jobs by matching up to a dollar for every dollar private commerce spends to fund those internships, in the hopes that the program of investment in this area reaches $500 million or more over the next half-decade. In its endorsement of the Governor’s Jobs program, the League’s Board of Trustees said that it hoped that the outcome of action between the Governor and the General Assembly would be a solid, significant and effective package of programs. We think that while this new package delivers a bit less than what the Governor originally proposed, its chances of success and of delivering 80% or more of what we had hope for are dramatically increased by this bipartisan agreement. Much of the package still has to go through the legislature, where some changes will be made, and the Clean Ohio increases still have to go to the ballot. However, we believe that the framework for this program’s eventual implementation became quite clear this morning. With this compromise, we think the votes in the General Assembly will be there to place Clean Ohio increases on the ballot. And with the historic support for Clean Ohio among legislators and the voters, we think it will be successful. Additionally, as pointed out by Speaker Husted, through this package, access to those significant local infrastructure dollars will become certain and available as much as a full calendar year earlier than if it had to be placed on the ballot. The expectation is that this whole package will pass through the General Assembly prior to its summer recess, according the President Harris. This is a well thought out package that will not only help Ohio’s cities and villages, but also help the entire Ohio economy.
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