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Ohio lawmakers plan $700M for community projects

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(The Center Square) – Hearings to give $350 million in one-time taxpayer funds to communities around Ohio begin Tuesday in the Ohio Senate.

Lawmakers created the One-Time Strategic Community Investment Fund when they passed the state’s two-year budget last June. This is the beginning process of spending the $350 million the Senate and House expect to allocate over the next month.

The Senate plans hearings on Senate Bill 288 Tuesday and Wednesday in the first phase of the traditional capital budget process.

“This additional $700 million gives the General Assembly an opportunity to reinvest in our communities,” said Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima. “It gave many organizations a second chance for funding, much like the $600,000 water tower project for Fort Recovery. These are projects that people notice because they make a difference every day in their neighborhood.”

The Senate and House bills contain earmarks ranging from $100,000 to nearly $50 million for fairs and fairgrounds improvements, covered bridge restorations, parking lots, fire and police stations, YMCAs, Boys and Girls Clubs, courthouse renovations, trails, schools, parks, and road projects.

“These investments will be transformational for our Ohio communities – large and small – urban, suburban and rural,” said Senate Democratic Leader Nickie J. Antonio, D-Lakewood. “While this proposal is not final, I look forward to the continued collaboration to fund these vital projects across our state.”

The largest single proposed outlay is $46 million for the Hamilton County Convention Center District.

Also, $27.5 million is planned for the Cincinnati Open tennis tournament, which nearly left for North Carolina in the fall.

The tournament has been played at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason, just outside of Cincinnati, since 1979 but flirted with moving to Charlotte after the city approved $65 million to build a $400 million tennis facility, as previously reported by The Center Square.

Another $24 million is planned to upgrade the impact lab at the Transportation Research Center in Union County, and $20 million is expected to go to the Ohio Center for Advanced Technologies.

The Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton is expected to receive $7 million for modernization, while the Hall of Fame Village is slated for another $9.75 million.

Other major outlays include:

• $16.75 million for University of Cincinnati Health.

• $11 million for Buckeye Lake north shore park and pier.

• $10 million for Lime Veterans Memorial Hall improvements.

• $9.75 million for Xavier College of Osteopathic Medicine.

• $8 million for Riverbend 2.0, a proposed $118 million music campus near Cincinnati.

• $5 million for Wayne National Forest Welcome Center.

“Our purpose with these one-time funds is to return taxpayers their money through community projects throughout the state which enhance our quality of life,” said Senate Finance Chairman Matt Dolan, R-Chagrin Falls. “These projects are in addition to the $3.1 billion in tax cuts passed in our last operating budget.”

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