Ohio’s $2.6 billion Capital Budget Bill (SB 310) was introduced and had its first hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on April 12. It’s expected to clear the legislative process in roughly two weeks. Testifying before the Committee was Office of Budget and Management (OBM) Director Tim Keen.
Among the major categories of funding in the capital proposal are the following:
– $650 million for local school construction, including repairs, renovations and maintenance for primary and secondary facilities.
According to Keen, besides dollars for the Ohio School Facilities Commission to continue funding 49 districts with projects underway and 40 new school districts over the capital biennium, the bill also includes language that will allow projects to be segmented on a building-by-building basis and “to proceed with as few as one building per year or one segment at a time.”
According to Keen, this portion of the proposal is composed of $500 million in GRF-backed debt appropriations, $100 million in GRF cash transfers and $50 million in available lottery profit dollars.
– $536.9 million for Ohio’s higher education system. According to Keen, a total of $428 million will go to Ohio’s 37 public colleges and universities, including $193.6 million for maintenance and renovation, $95.9 million for “world-class” program facility improvement projects, $59.9 million for workforce development and career opportunities, and $78.8 million to modernize and improve the overall academic experience of students. Other higher education appropriations benefit Ohio’s statewide university system, such as $13.4 million to support the Ohio Library and Information Network (OhioLINK), $8 million to support the acquisition of workforce based training and equipment and $6 million to support the Ohio Supercomputer Center. Also included in this total are community projects that are going to higher education.
– $500 million to local infrastructure projects through the Public Works Commission. These projects encompass roads, bridges, water-supply systems, storm sewers and wastewater systems. It includes $75 million of the $100 million in the bill to support the Clean Ohio program, which funds preservation of green space, farmland, open spaces and expanded recreational opportunities. Other Clean Ohio funds are in the departments of agriculture and natural resources.
– $323.1 million for the maintenance and preservation of Ohio’s dams, parks, trails, waterways and wildlife.
According to Keen, the bill “fully funds dam rehabilitation activities at Buckeye Lake and Lake White, the Portage Lakes East Reservoir and smaller dam rehabilitation projects and continued dam assessments.” Another $44.9 million is targeted to improvements at state parks and “day-use facilities,” while $44.2 million is for marina and wildlife renovations, improvements and equipment purchases.
– Approximately $150 million for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction “to support major facility renovations as well as general improvements at the 27 state-owned adult correctional institutions.”
– A total of $100 million for the Department of Transportation to address maintenance facilities.
In addition, spread throughout the departments is $160 million for community projects. On this latter category, Faber commented that legislators had received upwards of $1.5 billion in funding requests, saying that in large measure, they are “allocating disappointment.” However, he explained that they did try to “rebalance” the geographic spread of the funds with “more going to rural Ohio” in this proposal.
Keen pointed out that most of the community projects “also include commitments of local resources.”
During his afternoon testimony, Keen told the committee that of the $2.62 billion, $2.18 billion is supported by General Revenue Fund (GRF)-backed debt obligations, $77 million higher than the amount of GRF-backed capital appropriations approved for the current capital biennium. “Thus, SB310 is fiscally prudent and affordable and will support the credit rating agencies’ ranking of Ohio’s debt burden as ‘moderate’ and will support our ‘AA+’ credit rating and ‘stable’ credit outlook.”
The remaining $438 million is supported by non-GRF-backed bonds and cash funds.