CHICAGO — The Ohio legislature yesterday approved a bipartisan measure to put a $700 million general obligation bond proposal on the May ballot to finance one of the state’s largest jobs program through 2016.
A House-Senate conference committee hammered out a compromise bill late Tuesday, a day before the deadline to get the amendment on the May primary ballot. The measure on Wednesday passed the Democratic-controlled House by a vote of 84 to 13 and the Republican-controlled Senate voted 30 to 2. The compromise measure dropped a Republican-backed plan to issue $100 million of debt to finance infrastructure improvements.
If approved by voters, proceeds from the bond issue would finance a popular jobs program called Third Frontier that invests capital in local high-tech, alternative-energy, and biomedical companies. The state would issue the debt over four years starting in 2012, according to the resolution approved Tuesday.
The compromise follows months of debate over the final size of the borrowing. Gov. Ted Strickland pushed for a $1 billion issue to finance the program over five years, and the House several weeks ago passed a $950 million, five-year plan.
Republicans in the Senate balked at the size of the proposal, saying the state couldn’t afford to take on the additional debt amid a weak economy. After pushing for a $500 million borrowing, Republicans agreed to the $700 million compromise.
Ohio is set to issue $170 million a year for four years, starting in 2012, to finance the Third Frontier program. The bonds would mature between 2013 and 2026.
Third Frontier invests state money in local technology companies. It was launched in 2002 with a $1.6 billion bond issue under former Republican Gov. Bob Taft. Proceeds from that issue were intended to last 10 years, but the program is now expected to run out of money by 2011.
“Creating jobs and moving Ohio’s economy forward is critical,” Keary McCarthy, a spokesman for Democratic House Speaker Armond Budish said in local news reports. “This will help us continue proven job-creating programs.”