With the biennial budget in the rear-view mirror and the December holidays looming, Ohio policymakers and stakeholders are beginning work on the next big state spending measure – the capital appropriations bill for Fiscal Years 2019 and 2020.
The legislation designed to fund capital improvements with state-issued debt is slated for introduction and passage by April 2018, meaning work has just started and is expected to move quickly at the beginning of the new year.
State agencies submitted requests to the Office of Budget and Management in mid-November for the funding that will make up the bulk of the bill. Officials expect the total price tag of the measure to be similar to the last capital bill.
Community project requests (from legislators and local governments) that make up a small but often much-discussed portion of the legislation, are expected to be submitted around the first of the year.
The General Assembly is eyeing the bill’s introduction around February or early March, with votes expected before April. Once the bill is introduced, the process usually goes quickly.
The previous capital budget (SB310 in the 131st General Assembly) cleared both chambers and was signed by the governor just over a month after its introduction. Having been worked out behind the scenes beforehand, the measure sailed through the legislature without opposition or amendments,
That measure included $2.62 billion in appropriations, including $160 million in community projects.
The upcoming capital bill is also expected to include re-appropriations for ongoing projects. The bill that separately reauthorized ongoing debt-backed work in the last capital biennia (SB260, 131st General Assembly) topped out at about $1.5 billion.
In guidance issued to state agencies, Budget Director, Tim Keen said spending in the upcoming bill will remain limited.
“Consistent with Governor Kasich’s commitment to restrain government spending, it is imperative that appropriations in the FYs 2019-2020 capital biennium also be restrained,” he wrote. “Accordingly, the capital bill will focus on necessary renovations and upkeep of the state’s current capital assets and will reflect an extremely high threshold with respect to funding of new construction.”
Community leaders including chambers of commerce in the state’s metro areas are expected to submit their requests for new investment to the legislature by the end of the year, and legislators are working on identifying projects they will request. The target total for community projects, at roughly $130 million, is lower than what was allotted in the current capital biennium.
Director Keen wrote in his guidance that the community projects will constitute a small portion of the capital bill, with those awards being decided by collaboration between the legislature and the administration.
An item that could draw interest in the capital budget is the proposed inclusion of funding for new voting machines. Counties have said they will need state help paying for the machines ahead of the 2020 election.
Per usual, the capital bill also will provide a few hundred million for state colleges and universities. Much of that total will go toward maintaining and upgrading current facilities.