CHICAGO — Ohio will issue up to $700 million of new-money general obligation bonds over the next four years to finance a jobs program after voters approved the measure in Tuesday’s primary election.
Voters also passed a constitutional amendment that will relocate a casino originally slated to open in downtown Columbus to an abandoned manufacturing plant on the city’s outskirts. The approval marks an important victory for city officials and voters who opposed the opening of the casino in the city.
With 62% of voters supporting the measure, the $700 million bond request won after months of promotion by numerous business groups, newspaper editorial boards, and Democratic politicians, including Gov. Ted Strickland.
The proposal sparked some criticism from Republicans, who argued the plan would mean more debt straining future budgets.
“The Ohio Third Frontier is the single most effective tool we have to create jobs and spur economic development in Ohio,” Strickland said in a statement released after election results were in. “Third Frontier companies are literally inventing the cure for rust, and in the process they are inventing the cure for the Rust Belt. Because that’s not who we are, and today the voters of Ohio said that loud and clear.”
Under the plan, Ohio would borrow $700 million to renew the Third Frontier jobs program launched in 2002 with a $1.6 billion bond issue.
The state would issue up to $450 million of GOs through 2011, $225 million in 2012, and no more than $175 million each year after that.
The proposal would also require independent oversight of the proposed projects. Bond proceeds would fund investments in research and development projects by Ohio businesses focused on technology.
Voters also approved a constitutional amendment that relocates a new Columbus casino to the city’s west side. The measure is considered a compromise between opponents of the new gaming facility and casino owners. Supporters say the move will revitalize a blighted area.
Several local school bond requests and an income tax increase also won passage in Ohio. Voters in Mayfield approved an income tax hike that will generate roughly $3 million in new money for the city’s general fund. Voters in the Cuyahoga County town of Westlake approved an $84 million school bond measure, voters in Rocky River approved a $43 million of school bonds, and Circleville City Schools won a $38 million bond proposal.
In Michigan, voters approved more than half the school bond requests appearing on local ballots. Holland approved a pair of school bond proposals that total $73 million and Kalamazoo voters passed a $62 million bond request by a margin of nearly 3 to 1. St. Johns Public Schools won a $64 million bond proposal, and Lincoln Consolidated School District won — barely — passage of a $35 million debt request.
Grand Rapids narrowly won a controversial request for a 15% hike in the income tax rate, which it will use to avoid cuts in the police and fire departments.
Indiana voters approved several local school bond proposals and tax increases, in contrast to last year, when many bond proposals — some from the same districts — were rejected.
Noblesville School District won a pair of property tax hikes that will support a $63.6 million, 10-year capital campaign and a $35 million increase in its operating fund. Voters in Pike Township approved the district’s bid to spend $21 million on a new elementary school.
In Washington Township, school officials won approval for a measure that gives them authority to shift money from the capital budget to the general fund budget over the next seven years.
Several school districts lost property-tax hike ballot requests, and voters in Johnson County rejected a $23 million bond proposal that would have financed an expansion of the county jail.