Ohio’s plan to spend $700 million budget surplus

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Thanks to a surplus in the state’s General Revenue Fund, $700 million will be spent as part of a one-time strategic community investment fund, which will go towards various projects across Ohio.

“It’s kind of a unique thing,” chairman of the Ohio House Finance Committee Rep. Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) said. “We’ve never done this before.”

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“It is not projected to occur again, it’s really a once in a generation,” ranking member of the Ohio House Finance Committee Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Westlake) said. “This really can be a game changer for counties, for cities, for projects to really make transformational change.”

The fund is a one-time opportunity for projects across the state. Each chamber decides how to spend half of the fund.

“We took a hard look at what was not bondable projects for our members and what we thought had the biggest statewide impact,” Edwards said.

“This was a happy accident that we really should be mindful of how we use this money,” Sweeney said. “It would be very concerning if we used this money for operating costs, causing a fiscal cliff down the line.”

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Some of the one-time projects will include things at public colleges and universities, schools, and jails across the state. Edwards said one big allocation is at the transportation research center.

“They asked for a big amount of money, but it has a huge statewide impact, they have thousands of employees and it’s something the state competes with other states,” he said. “This is a competition of economic development in our area.”

Typically, at this time, the state would allocate funds in the capital budget. Last year, those allocations totaled $191 million; the capital budget will still be put together in addition to this one-time fund.

“Projects that we’ve been, in the capital budget, giving $1 million, $1 million, we can finally give them a larger chunk to get them moving and going,” Sweeney said.

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Sweeney said in Cuyahoga County alone, there were $600 million worth of requests to choose from.

“That demonstrates just the vast need out there to get projects moving forward,” she said. “We can invest to get projects that may have taken a whole other decade to get done or projects that would’ve never been able to be completed without this massive investment from the state.”

Sweeney thinks what has been put together is fair for all regions of the state. And Edwards said while the “three Cs” — Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati — get a good amount of funding, it is all proportionate.

“Not to say [Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati] are not getting a lot of money, but proportionally, you’re going to see a lot more money into the rural areas than you’ve ever seen,” Edwards said.

“There’s a lot of diversity, I believe, within this bucket of money,” Sweeney said. “And think all of it is going to mean a lot to the community but also the state as a whole.”

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And Edwards said not to worry if certain projects are not getting funded in this allocation.

“This is just a bite of the apple,” he said. “If you’re not in the one-time strategic fund and you submitted something for the capital bill, don’t freak out; we’ve still got time and are planning on doing a capital bill in a couple months.”

Edwards said the exact dollar amount for the capital budget remains to be seen. He said he hopes to get that done within the next couple of months.

As for the one-time strategic fund, Edwards said it will likely be both reported out of the House Finance Committee and voted out on the House floor on Wednesday.

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