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Blackwell, Strickland spar over turnpike



Published: Sat, July 15, 2006 @ 12:00 a.m.



Both men said they would be proactive in reviving Ohio's coal production.

By JEFF ORTEGA

VINDICATOR CORRESPONDENT

COLUMBUS -- Democratic gubernatorial nominee Ted Strickland criticized Ken Blackwell's proposal to lease the Ohio Turnpike to private interests, calling the potential benefits "wildly exaggerated."

Meanwhile, Blackwell, the Republican gubernatorial nominee, vowed that, if elected, he would be aggressive in helping move the state forward.

After addressing the Ohio Coal Association on Friday, Strickland suggested that Blackwell's proposals on the turnpike and on other issues might be irresponsible.

Blackwell proposes to lease Ohio's toll road that cuts across Ohio's northern tier to private interests in a bid to seed a $4 billion to $6 billion economic-development fund that could be used for energy, a revolving development loan fund or turnpike corridor development.

"Some people say I haven't been bold," said Strickland, currently a congressman from Lisbon. "I haven't been irresponsible."

Strickland said he believes Blackwell's projections on how much such a proposal would bring to state coffers to be wildly exaggerated. The Democrat also said many questions remain about the proposal as well such as the impact on tolls.

Blackwell, in his second four-year term as Ohio's secretary of state, dismissed Strickland's criticism. "That's his view," Blackwell said.

In a separate appearance before the coal association, Blackwell said he was the right candidate to lead Ohio and said he would be aggressive in pursuing solutions to the state's problems.

"I'm not going to sit on the sidelines and wring my hands," Blackwell told the association. "I've helped run cities," said Blackwell, a former Cincinnati mayor and city councilman and state treasurer. "I know capital markets."

Energy concerns

If elected governor, Strickland, who's in his sixth two-year term in Congress, said he would seek state support to double Ohio's coal production and also would work to increase the demand for Ohio coal.

As a native of Appalachia, Strickland said he knows coal issues all too well.

"The state must be your partner. I have been your partner for many years," Strickland said. "As governor, I will continue to be your partner."

Blackwell called for environmental and regulatory predictability for coal producers and other businesses in Ohio.

"Right now we have a lot of confusion, a lot of redundancy, and that is a disincentive for business and capital funds to invest in our economy," Blackwell said. The general election is Nov. 7.




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