The Clean Ohio Fund has generated billions in economic development, has created jobs and made communities more attractive to businesses. But a failure to issue bonds approved overwhelmingly by voters in 2008 threatens to stall many new projects, state government officials were told in a letter distributed this week.
Business leaders, local government officials, economic development authorities and environmental groups all signed on to the letter, which asks the Kasich Administration and state lawmakers to support capital funding for Clean Ohio this fall.
“If funding is not available by the spring and summer of 2012, many opportunities for job creation and economic enhancement will be lost,” reads the letter, which carries 92 signatures including those from township trustees and mayors of large cities, metropolitan park commissioners, business leaders, and environmental advocates.
The Clean Ohio Fund, first approved by voters in 2000 and overwhelmingly renewed in all 88 counties in 2008 with strong bipartisan support, is a $400 million state bond initiative that invests in local communities by preserving green space and farmland, improving outdoor recreation, and cleaning up abandoned industrial sites known as brownfields.
The amount of bonds that can be issues each year is limited to $100 million. The General Assembly has not yet issued the bonds for preservation of natural areas, farmland, parks or trails. The Nature Conservancy, which was one of the leaders of the 2008 effort to renew the program, was joined by numerous groups in sending the letter to point out the potential implications of further delays in funding.
The letter notes that to date, the Clean Ohio Fund has leveraged private investments to create a total economic impact of $2.6 billion. In addition, the letter cites recent polling which shows that the fund continues to receive strong popular and bipartisan backing from the state’s voters despite the state’s financial and economic challenges. The survey, taken in May, 2011, shows that 56 percent of Ohio voters polled say “elected officials should follow through on maintaining Clean Ohio’s funding for protection of natural areas, wildlife habitat and farmland.”
“Ohio voters unequivocally value clean water, preservation of working family farms, brownfield clean up, and protection of natural areas and trails,” the letter says. “They trust in their state government to deliver on that promise.”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.