MAHONING VALLEY Leaders want share of state funds

The legislators stress the need to work together to capture scarce capital bill money.
YOUNGSTOWN -- If there is money available for major projects in the state's capital bill next year, Mahoning Valley political, business and labor leaders want this area to get a piece of that pie.
Local state legislators and the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber will mail questionnaires to government officials in the Mahoning Valley shortly asking them if they have any project requests of at least $500,000 to be considered for funding from the Ohio Capital Appropriations Budget.
The Valley received about $5 million of the $120 million available in the 2000 capital bill. But with the uncertainty of how to fund education and the state's economic downturn, it is not known how much money will be available in next year's two-year capital bill. Every two years, the state sells bonds and spreads around the proceeds for capital projects.
Because money will probably be scarce, the local legislators are asking community leaders to not seek millions of dollars from the capital bill for one project.
"You're not going to get $4.5 million for a single project, unless it is some Earth-shattering project. The funds better be kept down," state Rep. Kenneth A. Carano of Austintown, D-65th, during a Monday meeting with Vindicator writers.
But unlike previous years when local state legislators fended for themselves and their districts when it came to obtaining capital bill money, legislators say this time around they are working together. The legislators acknowledge that money will be hard to come by the next time around and that makes it even more important for them to work as a unified group.
Deadline: After the questionnaires are returned by Jan. 1, the legislators will discuss and prioritize the projects and have a finalized list by Feb. 15, said state Rep. John Boccieri of New Middletown, D-57th.
"We'll analyze them and speak to the commissioners and the mayors and work out a list," Carano said. "We want to stop fighting each other. In the past, projects were on the table and then torpedoed by someone else who wanted funds."
State Rep. Anthony A. Latell Jr. of Girard, D-67th, admits getting money for Valley projects is going to be an uphill battle, particularly because most of the local legislators are Democrats and the state House and Senate are controlled by Republicans.
"But if we're together, we'll have a better chance for success for the Valley," he said. "In difficult financial times, it's going to be difficult to get money. Working together as a group is the best way we can get money."
For the past four or six years, the Valley has received its fair share of capital bill money, but the area still needs more because it lags behind the rest of the state economically, said Barbara Ewing, the chamber's vice president of public policy.

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