Issues about Ohio’s future

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 2, 2010

Lawrence County voters have seven ballots to choose from Tuesday but each will include two statewide issues important to Ohio’s future.

Citizens heading to the polls for the primary election will have to decide on Issue 1 — the renewal of the Third Frontier initiative designed to create and sustain high-tech jobs — and Issue 2 — a change to the constitutional amendment passed last year that allowed for a casino in Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Toledo.

Each one stands on its own but both have significant benefits for the state.

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Issue 1 would allow the state to approve $700 million in additional bonds. The 10-year, $1.4 billion program was created in 2002. It won’t expire until 2012 but this 4-year extension is vital to ensure its continued effectiveness.

The Third Frontier program, originally developed under Gov. Bob Taft’s administration and widely considered to be bipartisan, has been effective in creating jobs and investing in economic development, a push that is needed now more than ever.

State officials say that, through the end of 2009, the program generated nearly 55,000 jobs at an average salary of $65,815 a year; created, attracted or funded 637 companies; and generated $6.6 billion in economic activity, according to the Associated Press and other reports.

Renewing this program won’t directly cost taxpayers more money, but the bonds must be repaid from future state budgets, a move that could ultimately cost Ohioans one way or another.

Although the Third Frontier isn’t perfect, it has shown to be an effective way of strengthening Ohio’s economy.

Issue 2 deals with the casino gambling measure voters approved last year in part because the promise of much-needed jobs and an injection of revenue for the state.

Let’s be clear: It isn’t about gambling.

Ohio voters already approved limited casino gambling. Issue 2 is about fixing a mistake.

The original proposal had numerous flaws but the biggest was that it was a Constitutional amendment and even minor changes must be approved by a majority of Ohio voters. That is the case now because voters will have to say “Yes” to Issue 2 or the Columbus casino will likely get built in a terrible location.

This ballot issue would allow the casino to be built in a former auto parts factory on the western side of the city.

Issue 1 and 2 shouldn’t be much of a decision at all because both would help make Ohio’s future a little brighter.