Gov. John Kasich signed the $2.63 billion bricks-and-mortar measure (HB 529) during a ceremony at Twin Valley Behavioral Health Hospital in Columbus.
The governor pointed to efforts to stabilize the state’s budget situation over the past several years, which he said allowed for the continued investments in Ohio-owned facilities and local projects. The legislation covering Fiscal Years 2019-20 building improvements includes mostly debt-backed investments in education, mental health facilities and community projects across the state.
“We still restrain our spending enough and our debt levels are low enough that we can afford this,” he said. “If our debt level got up too high, we wouldn’t be able to do these things.”
Gov. Kasich signed the capital budget a little over a month after it was introduced. The legislation, traditionally agreed upon before its introduction, cleared both chambers quickly with overwhelming bipartisan support. This budget covers capital appropriations and reappropriations through June 30, 2020.
In education and higher education, the budget includes $625 for repairs, renovations and new K-12 education facilities and $400 million for projects at Ohio’s colleges and universities. The administration’s emphasis in education funding was on forward-looking infrastructure, including technology, not new building construction, Gov. Kasich said.
“We’re not keen on the universities building new buildings,” he said. “Buildings are 20th Century.”
The budget includes $100 million for the Clean Ohio Fund, which will help promote green space, farmland and trails across the state, the governor said. The state will provide $439 million for local infrastructure projects administered by the Ohio Public Works Commission, through both bond-backed appropriations and revolving loan funding.
The governor also touted $20 million included in the budget for community resiliency projects, intended to improve and expand infrastructure in community centers and other facilities as part of an effort to help high-risk youth and others in underserved areas.