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Unions, Chambers, Politicians Agree: Ohio Needs More Debt

Three cheers for the broad support behind spending more taxpayer money

Labor unions, Chamber of Commerce affiliates, and both major political parties support Strong Ohio Communities, a campaign to issue $1.875 billion in new state bonds for local public works projects.

The political action committee (PAC) is imploring Ohioans to “Vote YES to Create Jobs and Build Roads, Bridges and Other Needed Projects …in YOUR Community.”

Compared to the previous State Capital Improvements Program, the proposal on the statewide primary ballot as Issue 1 would increase the amount of debt issued by $25 million per year for the first five years and $50 million per year for the next five years.

Issue 1 might sound like a “jobs bill” straight from President Obama, but the election-year spending hike was introduced by Governor John Kasich, Senate President Keith Faber, and House Speaker Bill Batchelder — all Republicans — at an Ohio Chamber of Commerce event last December.

Sen. Faber insisted that greater public works debt would be fiscally responsible “because of the steady financial leadership of this governor” and the “conservative principles” of the Ohio General Assembly.

Months earlier, Faber was warning that the Ohio Controlling Board must appropriate Obamacare money because Ohio’s Medicaid program would go bankrupt without it. Gov. Kasich’s enactment of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion put taxpayers on the hook for billions in new entitlement spending.

And, as Maggie Thurber reported last month at Ohio Watchdog, Ohio owes over $1.5 billion on federal loans taken out to shore up the state Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund.

Strong Ohio Communities is chaired by Ohio Chamber of Commerce President Andrew E. Doehrel, Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga, Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman (D), and Hamilton County Commissioner Greg Hartmann (R).

The Strong Ohio Communities advisory committee also includes International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 18 Business Manager Pat Sink, County Commissioners Association of Ohio President Nick Kostandaras, Affiliated Construction Trades of Ohio Executive Director Matt Szollosi, and Ohio Municipal League President William Healey, the mayor of Canton.

“The Ohio AFL-CIO supports Issue 1 because of the 35,000 jobs it will create, and the benefit it will provide our members across the state in terms of new and improved basic infrastructure,” Burga said in a February 20 release.

“Leaders of both political parties and business and labor all agree: Issue 1 benefits all Ohioans and deserves passage on May 6,” the union boss continued.

As Gov. Kasich said when first discussing the plan with the press, “this’ll be very good for shinin’ up the state.”

A wide range of politicians and interest groups seem to be on the same page in terms of the luster that increased public debt would add to their bank accounts and electoral futures.

In addition to the groups represented in the PAC’s leadership, Strong Ohio Communities is endorsed by the Ohio Democratic Party, Ohio Republican Party, Democrat gubernatorial candidate and Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, and a laundry list of local chambers and mayors.

This story was originally published at Media Trackers.

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