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Taft proposes bond issue that goes beyond high tech



Published: Thu, April 28, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Although the vote was close, 51 percent to 49 percent, the fact that Ohioans in the November 2003 election rejected a $500 million bond issue that would have paid for high-technology initiatives spoke volumes.

Despite an anemic economy, brought on by the loss of more than 200,000 high-paying manufacturing jobs, the ever increasing cost of mandated services state government must provide and a national economic downturn, a majority of the voters failed to -- or refused to -- recognize that the bond issue was about Ohio's future.

The postmortems on that vote have been well publicized, but there still is no guarantee that the intervening 17 months have opened the eyes of the populace to the reality of the global economy.

The exodus of young professionals from Ohio in search of greener technology pastures should be a wake-up call for anyone who believes this state can succeed by clinging to the past.

Fortunately, Republican Gov. Bob Taft, who launched the Third Frontier initiative to make Ohio more competitive with other states that continue to grow their high-technology economies, and the GOP leadership in the General Assembly refuse to be dissuaded by the 2003 vote.

Leadership support

Last year, Taft, who will be leaving office in December 2006, let it be known that he intended to push the Legislature to approve the $500 million high-tech development program so it could be placed on this November's ballot. He succeeded in winning the support of Senate President Bill Harris and House Speaker Jon Husted, both Republicans, which means that the majority in both chambers would go along.

But there was still the possibility of opposition from such influential organizations as the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, which withheld its support for the bond issue the last time around. Faced with the challenge of converting the doubters, the Taft administration has sweetened the pot.

Rather than only focusing on high-technology, the bond package would provide money for road and bridge improvements and preparing sites for industrial and business expansion.

While the $2 billion tag might scare some voters, the benefits that would be derived if the issue were approved cannot be ignored.

The $500 million from the sale of bonds would give the state the ability to bring new products to market, recruit world-class researchers, entrepreneurs and industrial fellows and support start-up companies to create more jobs; the $1.35 billion would go toward upgrading the Ohio's deteriorating roads and bridges; and the $150 million for cleanup projects would enable old industrial regions like the Mahoning Valley turn now unusable land into future development sites.

While Democratic leaders in the General Assembly have not yet embraced the $2 billion bond issue, we cannot fathom the Democratic legislators from Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties withholding their support.

Indeed, we would urge the delegation to publicly announce its endorsement of the governor's plan as soon as possible so that when it's time for the money to be distributed, Taft and the GOP leaders in the House and Senate will pay special attention to the Mahoning Valley.




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