- Associated Press - Monday, May 5, 2014

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The renewal of a public works program is drawing last-minute pitches from both sides of the statewide ballot issue, as Ohio voters prepare to decide the outcome on Tuesday.

The proposal would allow the state to borrow $1.875 billion over 10 years through the issuance of general obligation bonds. The Ohio Public Works Commission would then use the money to provide grants and loans to local governments for capital improvement projects, such as roadways, wastewater treatment systems and trash collection.

Ohio voters previously signed off on the program in 1987, 1995 and 2005. If approved Tuesday, the constitutional amendment would take effect immediately.

The Libertarian Party of Ohio and the conservative 1851 Center for Constitutional Law are urging residents to vote no. Their leaders argue the state should not borrow and spend money it does not have.

“This is simply giving state government another credit card so they can hand out expensive favors to well-connected politicians and companies, while sticking taxpayers with a huge bill that will have to be paid for by tax increases over the next generation,” Kevin Knedler, the chair of the state’s Libertarian Party, said in an email Friday.

The proposal has had bipartisan backing in the Legislature, whose support led to the issue being placed on the primary ballot. Associations representing county commissioners, townships and municipalities have praised the effort and the program’s renewal.

Republican Gov. John Kasich made the issue’s passage a priority this year.

In an email to supporters on Saturday, Kasich said the proposal will help keep the state’s economy growing, drive job creation and allow for needed repairs.

“Ohio’s improved financial situation helps to make possible these vital investments that will strengthen our communities,” Kasich said.

The public works program has funded more than 11,500 projects in the last 27 years, though it runs out of money after July 1, 2015.

This year’s proposal boosts the amount of funding compared with prior years. The initiative would increase the bond funding levels to $175 million annually for the first five years and then $200 million each year for the remaining five years. That’s up from the $1.35 billion voters agreed to in 2005.

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