ECONOMY 'Jobs for Ohio' plan to appear on November ballot
The measure would allow the state to borrow hundreds of millions of dollars.
By JEFF ORTEGA
COLUMBUS -- Voters will decide this November the fate of the proposed $2 billion plan supporters have dubbed the "Jobs for Ohio" plan.
By a 31-to-0 vote, the Ohio Senate gave the approval Wednesday to place on the fall ballot the measure that includes borrowing $500 million, through the sale of bonds, to support Republican Bob Taft's Third Frontier Project to develop high-tech jobs in Ohio.
The proposed package also includes a $1.35 billion for local road, bridge and water projects, and borrowing $150 million, again through the sale of bonds, for industrial parks and other development.
Because it's a proposed constitutional amendment, backers needed at least 20 votes in the GOP-led 33-member chamber for the issue to move to the ballot box.
The Republican-led House voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to place the issue before voters.
Attention now turns to the fall campaign.
"We have a very broad cross section of supporters. We think the people of the state of Ohio will carefully evaluate what the issues are and ultimately they'll say Ohio needs to invest in its own future," Lt. Gov. Bruce Johnson said.
"I believe that Ohio voters will see the merits of this jobs package and help us take the next step in revitalizing our economy," Ohio Senate President Bill M. Harris said in a statement.
The measure drew all 11 Democratic votes because of a deal brokered in the last few days between Taft, majority Republicans and minority Democrats in both legislative chambers.
The deal included expanding the Third Frontier Commission from three members to nine members to include representatives from all regions of the state.
All appointees will have business and research qualifications and will be appointees of the governor, according to a synopsis of the bipartisan agreement.
The board representation and makeup will be covered in implementing legislation should the bond issues pass, state officials said.
Other components of the deal include maintaining prevailing wage for all public projects and provisions that would ensure Ohio firms get first preference for dollars.
Accusations of misleading
However, even as the jobs proposal cleared the final legislative hurdle to the ballot box, criticism has emerged.
In a prepared statement, the Ohio Roundtable, a Cleveland-area based nonprofit public policy group, blasted the measure.
"Gov. Taft has buried the Third Frontier ballot language in a public works bond issue that does not have to pass at this time solely for the purpose of hiding the truth from voters," roundtable president David Zanotti said in the statement.
"Republican leaders know Third Frontier is a loser so they are trying to sell it as an infrastructure bill renamed 'Jobs for Ohio,'" Zanotti's statement said.
In 2003, voters statewide rejected a similar bond issue in support of the Third Frontier Project.