By Marc Kovac
An Ohio House committee moved Tuesday on Gov. John Kasich’s $1.74 billion capital budget, setting up a possible floor vote as soon as Thursday.
The finance-committee vote came along party lines, with most — but not all — Democrats opposing it, citing a lack of earmarks for projects in their communities.
“We have a responsibility to advocate for the interests of our district,” said Rep. Vernon Sykes, a Democrat from Akron. “It’s unconscionable to introduce a bill one week, the capital bill, and approve it just days later without adequate opportunity to give input.”
He added, “We don’t have the majority here, but we want consideration.”
The two-year spending plan includes funding for new or improved buildings on college and university campuses, maintenance to state parks, roads and bridges and money for coal research, with most paid for using borrowed funds.
About $400 million of the total will go to public colleges and universities, which worked together to create a list of projects for their campuses.
Additionally, the capital budget includes about $675 million for public-school facilities, providing continued support for the nearly 80 districts currently receiving funding, plus resources for 40 to 50 additional projects.
The Ohio Public Works Commission will receive about $300 million for roads, bridges and other local infrastructure projects.
And $290 million will be used for repairs at state parks and other Ohio Department of Natural Resources facilities, state prisons and veterans homes.
Though the bill does set funding for some projects in specific counties, it does not include earmarks submitted by individual lawmakers. Rep. Ron Amstutz, a Republican from Wooster and chairman of the finance committee, said no member on either side of the political aisle added local projects to the legislation, though lawmakers and the administration are working to determine how to approach such projects in the future.