On February 6, 2008 Ohio Governor Ted Strickland announced his "Building Ohio Jobs" initiative in his 2008 State-of-the-State Address. The "Building Ohio Jobs" initiative is aimed at creating 80,000 new Ohio jobs by issuance of $1.7 billion in bonds for Ohio infrastructure.
No new taxes will be raised in this initiative. Rather, the bonds will be retired based upon available funding in the State's biannual budget. The initiative requires the vote of the people, to amend the Ohio Constitution, Article VIII, Section 18. Funding will not be limited to public works projects, but also may be used to pay private companies that attract private, matching dollars to qualified projects. By leveraging the State funds, the Governor hopes to attract additional cash toward investment in Ohio.
The draft legislation does not specify an issuing authority. Subsequent to passage at the November 4, 2008 General Election, the Ohio General Assembly will pass enabling legislation, to effect each of the purposes specified in the initiative.
The Governor proposes that the $1.7 billion should be allocated as follows:
- $250 million in the advanced and renewable energy economy, including solar, wind and clean coal
- $150 million in our state's infrastructure to help create a seamless network of roads, rails, and ports to support our logistics and distribution industry
- $100 million in bioproducts that use renewable sources instead of petroleum to create plastics and other products
- $200 million in the biomedical industry, saving lives by fueling Ohio's leadership in new medical products
- $200 million establishing the Ohio Main Streets Renewal Initiative to spur redevelopment in downtown neighborhoods in our cities and towns
- $400 million in the Clean Ohio fund, to advance our efforts to reclaim brownfields and other damaged lands and preserve farm land and open spaces
- $400 million in the Ohio Public Works Commission to help our local partners with road, bridge, water and sewer projects.
The focus of the "Ohio Main Streets Renewal Initiative" is to provide $200 million to local government for economic development in downtowns. The "Clean Ohio Fund" will gain $400 million for environmental conservation. $400 million will go to the Ohio Public Works Commission, which has enjoyed two decades of voter support in "Issue 2" and "Issue 1" cash administered through a statewide, local government decision-making network.
The highlight of "Building Ohio Jobs" will be to invest $250 million in Advanced Energy. Technologies to be considered will include solar, wind, advanced coal, bio-fuels, and energy conservation.
While highways are not specifically mentioned in the initiative, "transportation logistics" and distribution infrastructure is scheduled for $150 million. The goal is to invest these funds in multi-modal transportation infrastructure, linking railways, roads, waterways, and airports.
The ripple effect for such an investment can be felt throughout State agencies and industries. The Ohio Department of Agriculture notes that the Clean Ohio Fund, in its seventh and final year, will distribute $3.125 million to farmland owners wanting to keep their land forever in agriculture use. The Department of Agriculture uses these funds to purchase farm easements from landowners. "Our program was originally created as a pilot, and each year we've enhanced it to better support Ohio's preservation needs," said Agriculture Director Robert Boggs. "If passed, this money will help continue to preserving the State's most valued natural resource for generations to come."
The Constitutional initiative can reach the ballot in two ways. The Governor has asked the Ohio General Assembly to pass a Joint Resolution, which would place the initiative on the ballot without further effort. Alternatively, the Governor formed a working group to consider seeking 400,000 signatures to place the initiative on the ballot through a citizen petition. Department of Development Chief of Staff Lauren Goode and the Governor's Director of Boards and Commissions Aaron Pickrell have left their State employment for the purpose of working on this effort.
Currently the Governor seeks endorsements in support of the initiative toward passage in the fall.