Ohio state Senate passes over $1 billion in bonds; House balks

Bonds

The Ohio state Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that included $1.27 billion in bonds for state government agency facilities, K-12 classrooms, local subdivisions’ capital improvement projects and conservation projects.

The bill, HB 27, was originally intended only to give students more information about college fees and loan repayment. And Senate Democrats voiced reservations about spending they claimed was tacked on at the last minute.

Minority Leader Nickie Antonio, D-District 23, complained before the vote about “getting the amendment not even an hour ago,” the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported. Antonio’s office did not respond to requests for comment.

The Ohio Statehouse in Columbus. The state Senate passed a bill Wednesday that included over $1 billion in bonds for schools and public works, but a dueling bill passed by the House calls into question whether the legislation will become law.

Ohiostatehouse.org

But Ohio Senate Majority Caucus Director of Communications John Fortney said the bonds were not added to the bill at the last minute.

“The bond funding for schools and for public works were what the House had included and passed under House Bill 2,” he said, adding that the programs receiving funding are “existing, well-vetted programs” that have historically been part of the capital budget process every two years.

The largest share of the bonds, $600 million, would go to the School Building Program Assistance Fund for classroom facilities. The rest would go to public works projects: $400 million for the Ohio Public Facilities Commission to spend on local subdivisions; $196 million to the Administrative Building Fund to use of state government agency buildings; and $75 million to the Ohio Public Facilities Commission for conservation efforts.

According to the Plain Dealer, state House GOP spokesman Pat Melton has said HB 27 will not pass the House. Melton said the House prefers House Bill 2, which it has already passed and sent to the state Senate. House Bill 2 also includes bonds for classrooms and public works projects.

“There has been a false narrative depicting that there was an agreement that each chamber would approve the other chamber’s half of the $700 million,” Fortney said. “The intent was that each chamber would work on recommending a list of projects and ideas for $350 million respectively, and then leadership from the House and Senate would vet and develop a final approved list for a total of $700 million. Unfortunately, the House decided to move on its own timeline and pass House Bill 2.”

House Bill 2 includes a $350 laundry list of one-time funding projects, including $1 million for a professional women’s soccer stadium in Cleveland. The Senate has reportedly objected to some of those projects.

In addition to the bonds, HB 27 also includes provisions concerning the adoption process, with grants for Ohio families who choose to adopt children, and to the Ohio State Fair. 

After a pair of December upgrades, Ohio owns triple ratings from Moody’s Investors Service, S&P Global Ratings and Fitch Ratings.

Kroll Bond Rating Agency assigns a AAA long-term rating to Ohio’s GO highway improvement bonds, which are additionally enhanced by a pledge of highway user fees. 

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