CHICAGO — Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland used his fourth state of the state address yesterday to highlight a growing alternative energy industry he said would help spark an economic renewal and push lawmakers to approve a $950 million bond program that would finance a technology jobs program.
The speech comes a week after Strickland officially launched his re-election campaign against Republican opponent and former U.S. Rep. John Kasich. Recent local polls have put Kasich ahead of Strickland, with voters naming the economy as one of their top concerns.
Strickland touted a number of job-creating initiatives in the speech and said he would establish new funds to finance capital investments in small businesses and alternative energy companies.
“There will come a day when Ohio will be the undisputed home of advanced energy,” he said. “A day when we will have cast off those two tired words that have been used to put us down — Rust Belt. Because that’s not who we are.”
The governor urged lawmakers to approve a measure that would renew the so-called Third Frontier program, a popular technology jobs program that was launched eight years ago with a $1 billion bond issue.
As proceeds from the 2002 bond sale dwindle, Strickland is pushing for another $1 billion borrowing to continue the program.
The Democratic-led House last month approved a bill to put on the ballot a measure to extend the program five years with a $950 million bond sale — $10 million less than the governor proposed.
Yesterday morning, before his speech, the Republican-led Senate Finance Committee voted to chop down the borrowing to $500 million to finance a four-year extension of the program.
The legislature must pass the bill by next week to get it on the May ballot.
“I want to thank the legislature for working toward the renewal of this vital program,” Strickland said, citing a recent study that estimated the program has sparked more than $6.6 billion in private investment over the last eight years.
“With the Third Frontier, Ohio made a commitment to securing our place at the forefront of the research economy,” he said. “And that commitment has paid tremendous dividends.”
Stricland proposed a $40 million investment in capital for new and expanding alternative energy companies — the money would come from a mix of federal stimulus funds and a state job-creation program — and for the elimination of personal property taxes on the generation of wind and solar power at facilities that begin construction this year and produce energy by 2012.
The governor also said the state was planning to boost its spending on infrastructure projects by 30% this year.