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Clean Ohio Fund to get only half of proposed budget
by elle / PD Saturday, Dec. 04, 2004 at 2:15 PM

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Columbus - The Clean Ohio Fund created by voters in 2000 is expected to get only half the money it had coming in the soon-to-be-unveiled capital budget proposal.

The cash-strapped Taft administration is prepared to ask for $100 million for the fund, said spokesman Orest Holubec.

That is half of what proponents of the program expected to see in each two-year budget cycle.

Environmentalists who joined Gov. Bob Taft when he championed the Clean Ohio campaign in 2000 say the Republican governor and lawmakers are failing citizens if they stop short of paying for what was approved.

"The legislature, in our minds, needs to make good on the promise given to Ohio voters to create the Clean Ohio Fund," said Ohio Environmental Council spokesman Jack Shaner.

The constitutional amendment voters approved put no time frame on the spending, but both the political campaign and the enabling legislation that took effect in July 2001 laid out a four-year blueprint for the $400 million package of programs.

Half the money is earmarked for urban brownfields cleanup, and the other half goes to "green" programs such as farmland and parks preservation.

Taft still sees the Clean Ohio Fund as a priority, Holubec said, but resources are scarce.

"The governor will fight for $100 million in Clean Ohio money, which is a significant amount given this tight budget," he said.

Holubec said Taft has not ruled out seeking further funding for the program next year in a different bill.

It is traditional, however, to include state debt issues in the bricks-and-mortar capital budget.

Rep. Chuck Blasdel, who sponsored the bill laying out the Clean Ohio spending plan, said he hopes the Taft administration is simply spreading the financial burden over a longer period, not cutting the program.

"I'd like to see the full $200 million without a doubt, but I think there are ways that in a tight budget year you could slow down the funding and still have an effective program," said Blasdel, an East Liverpool Republican. "Now, if their intent is something other than that, then I have a real problem with it."

Chris Knopf, state director of the Trust for Public Land, said Clean Ohio grants leverage more federal and state money, so cuts have a deep impact.

His group has completed three projects with help from Clean Ohio grants, including the 1,200-acre East Sandusky Bay Nature Preserve near Cedar Point.

"From a strictly political standpoint: This is the governor's last term, and he really has the chance to leave a lasting legacy," Knopf said. "That would be best achieved during his administration by fully funding the program."

The state fully funded the program in each of the first two years, according to the agencies who administer the grants.

To reach this Plain Dealer reporter:
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Julie Carr Smyth
Plain Dealer Bureau
jsmyth@plaind.com, 1-800-228-8272




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