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Bipartisan group of state senators proposes new $1 billion bond fund to finance water, sewer projects

A bipartisan group of members of the Ohio Senate has introduced legislation that could eventually authorize the state to issue up to $1 billion in bonds to help upgrade and expand local water and wastewater facilities.

“Ohioans need water that is safe and clean,” said Senator Schiavoni (D-Youngstown), lead sponsor of Senate Joint Resolution 3. “We can help meet this need throughout the state without forcing families to bear additional cost. This is a collaborative solution to a critical problem that will enhance quality of life in our communities.”

If both houses of the General Assembly were to approve SJR 3, a special statewide election would be held on March 15, 2016, at which voters would be asked to amend the Ohio Constitution to authorize the state to issue up to $100 million each fiscal year over 10 years for sewer and water capital improvements

Schiavoni said the grant program would be fiscally responsible and would keep finances well below the state's constitutionally mandated debt cap, which limits the state's total debt service to no more than five percent of anticipated general fund revenues.

“We have the opportunity to improve our drinking water, lower environmental hazards, and increase protection for our natural resources, all while creating thousands of jobs and boosting the economy,”  Schiavoni said. “This is good legislation. I hope we can get it passed quickly.”

One indication that the bill might indeed have a future is the bipartisan group of senators who signed onto the bill as sponsors.  In addition to Schiavoni, other sponsors are: John Eklund (R-Chardon), Bill Seitz (R-Cincinnati), Edna Brown (D-Toledo), Cecil Thomas (D-Cincinnati), Capri Cafaro (D-Hubbard), Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville), Tom Sawyer (D-Akron), Kenny Yuko (D-Richmond Heights), Charleta Tavares (D-Columbus), Michael Skindell (D-Lakewood) and Sandra Williams (D-Cleveland).

According to the latest assessments conducted by the states and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Ohio has needs totaling about $15.5 billion in wastewater infrastructure and $12.2 billion in drinking water infrastructure.

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