- By Laura A. Bischoff Columbus Bureau
After weeks of behind-the-scenes negotiations, state lawmakers on Monday rolled out a $2.6 billion capital budget bill that includes $146 million of local community projects and $222 million to fight the opioid crisis and treat those with mental illnesses.
The capital budget touches the everyday lives of nearly all Ohioans in some way: facility upgrades for police and emergency dispatchers, building improvements for K-12 schools and universities, funding for arts, entertainment and sports complexes, and money to extend bike trails and spiff up parks.
Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Medina, said his goal is to pass the bill and send it to Gov. John Kasich by late March. Typically, the state passes a capital budget bill every two years to fund big-ticket items in parks, schools, prisons, universities and elsewhere in state government.
State Sen. Scott Oelslager, R-Canton, said the highlights include:
$600-million for school construction and renovations;
$483-million for public colleges and universities;
$514 million for the Public Works Commission, including $100-million for the Clean Ohio program which funds preservation of farmland and open spaces;
$234-million for parks, dams, waterways and trails.
The higher education funds include $13.8 million for Wright State University, $12.4 million for Sinclair Community College, $22 million for Miami University, $37.5 million for University of Cincinnati, and $4.8 million each for Central State University and Clark State Community College.
The bill carves out $147 million for community projects across the state — a little less than the $159 million in such earmarks in the last capital budget bill — including:
* $1 million for the Dayton Arcade,
* $750,000 for the Dayton Art Institute,
* $250,000 for the Springfield Museum of Art,
* $550,000 for the Ohio Aviation Hall of Fame,
* $750,000 for a project at the Middletown airport
* $450,000 for the Kettering Rosewood Arts Center,
*$350,000 for the Victoria Theater Arts Annex,
* $250,000 for the Boonshoft Museum,
* $100,000 for the Sorg Opera House in Middletown.
* $100,000 for the new Funk Music Hall of Fame in downtown Dayton.
Money for health programs
The bill includes $222 million for health initiatives — double the amount included in the last capital bill — such as women’s health, mental health treatment beds and drug treatment beds. For example, $800,000 is earmarked for the Dayton Regional Crisis Stabilization Unit and Detox Center as well as $350,000 for the Sidney STAR Transitional Treatment House.
“We recognized the need there and listened very carefully to the community,” Oelslager said.
The state will also establish $20 million competitive grant program for mental health projects.
Lawmakers opted against including money for new voting machines in Ohio’s 88 counties in the capital budget. Legislative leaders said that will be dealt with in a separate bill.
Also excluded from the proposed capital budget bill is funding for school security upgrades. Obhof said lawmakers plan to handle that in separate legislation in March.
“I’ve spoken to the speaker and I’ve spoke to the governor and I think we’re all committed to that,” he said. He noted that the state has provided money for security upgrades, active shooter training for school teachers and purchase of trauma kits.