Ohio Senate in no hurry to spend one-time taxpayer funds

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(The Center Square) – The Ohio Senate doesn’t seem as ready as the House of Representatives to dole out $350 million in extra taxpayer money in the state budget to schools, parks, bridges, museums and other projects.

In a letter to House members, Senate President Matt Huffman, R-Lima, said no deal has been reached between the chambers on spending and no actual discussions have occurred.

“Approving a large spending bill without additional debate would be irresponsible and an abdication of the duties of the Senate,” Huffman wrote. “Normally, both chambers work together to create an agreed upon bill. For unknown reasons, the House chose to break from the process.”

Both the House and Senate have $350 million in one-time taxpayer money to spend from the One Time Strategic Community Investments Fund created by the General Assembly for the current budget.

The money was set aside for economic development and community to help drive economic growth.

Huffman said the Senate plans to follow its original timeline to pass a bill agreed upon by both chambers in late May or early June.

Republican and Democratic House members, however, have started applauding appropriations for their districts, including $5 million for renovations to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

Rep. Kevin Miller, R-Newark, called the money important for his district and included $10 million for a park and pier at Buckeye Lake and $125,000 to renovate a local YMCA to allow it to offer full-time child care for children under 5 years old.

“These investments are transformational for our region,” Miller said. “I am proud to have championed the funding to improve the everyday lives of my constituents.”

House Minority Leader Allison Russo, D-Upper Arlington, included $10 million for the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and $1 million for the Columbus Downtown Security Command Center.

“Every member of the House Finance Committee worked extremely hard to ensure this one-time investment in the people and communities of Ohio met its goal of appropriating $2 billion, bringing meaningful economic growth and community development to each and every county,” Russo said.

The House-passed bill also includes $1.65 billion of borrowed money, which provides $600 million for school district facility projects, $397.6 million for construction at state colleges and universities, $400 million for grants and loans to local governments for road, bridge, water and sewer projects; and $250 million to build and renovate local jails.

The Buckeye Institute, a Columbus-based policy group, said the House bill failed to deliver for educational needs around the state.

“Ohio House Bill 2 spends too many state taxpayer dollars on projects that will have little statewide impact and fails to make a transformational investment in education,” said Rea S. Hederman Jr., vice president of policy at The Buckeye Institute. “As the Ohio Senate considers how to spend the One-Time Strategic Community Investment Fund, The Buckeye Institute looks forward to working with them to ensure taxpayer dollars help all education providers, not only district schools, expand facilities and increase school capacity, and that every child in every family in every community comes first.”

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