Ohio's lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, have done their part; now it's up to Gov. Bob Taft and his administration to determine the best strategy for persuading voters in November that borrowing $2 billion is essential to the state's bid to be a major player in the global economy.
But mindful of what occurred in 2003 when Taft's former chief of staff, Brian Hicks, was put in charge of a similar statewide ballot initiative -- it went down to defeat and the governor's declining popularity was cited as one of the major reasons -- we would urge a grass-roots campaign sponsored by business and labor.
As Sen. C.J. Prentiss, leader of the Democratic minority, put it Wednesday after senators unanimously approved the $2 billion ballot issue, "This has to be the face of the Youngstown resident who is out there struggling, the face of the Cincinnati resident who's out there looking for opportunity or that great inventor down in Marietta."
While we may quibble with Prentiss' characterization of what is occurring in this region -- the success of the Youngstown Business Incubator in downtown Youngstown is proof that high-technology is in the Valley's future -- her point is well taken. The GOP-controlled House voted Tuesday to place the issue on the general election ballot.
The governor and the Republican and Democratic legislative leadership should not be the face of the effort to persuade voters to approve the sale of $2 billion in bonds. That's because taxpayers across the state are being pelted with the argument by Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, among others, that there is more than enough revenue coming into the state's coffers to provide mandated services and even develop job-creation initiatives. The problem, according to Blackwell, is that the money is being squandered.
Business and labor leaders would have greater credibility in making the case that Ohio is at a crossroads and must approve the issue. Of the $2 billion, $1.35 billion would be spent on road, bridge, water and sewer projects; $150 million would got toward reclaiming old industrial sites for new business; and $500 million would be dedicated to Gov. Taft's Third Frontier technology initiative, which we have enthusiastically endorsed.
In order for Ohio to remain competitive in the high-tech global sweepstakes, new products must be brought to the market, world-class researchers, entrepreneurs and industrial fellows must be recruited and there must be support for start-up companies so more jobs can be created.
The state's future is now. The bond issue request should be judged on its merits and must not be tied to the Ohio Bureau of Worker's Compensation investment scandal. Because Taft has been caught up in this fast-moving crisis -- he admits he failed to declare golf outings he attended paid for by a coin dealer who is the target of the probe -- we believe he should distance himself from the bond issue campaign.
We are confident that the governor will do the right thing and stay in the background. After all, with Democrats in the General Assembly, including all from Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties, supporting the initiative, labor's support is a given. That's a major accomplishment.