By Matt Reese
The popular programs of the Clean Ohio Fund are feeling the state’s budget crunch, as funding was not included in capital appropriations for the current biennium. Clean Ohio programs include the Agricultural Easement Purchase Program that has preserved more than 20,000 acres of Ohio farmland. In addition, Clean Ohio funds go to various brownfield restoration projects in urban areas and a number of recreational trails around the state.
Clean Ohio was initially passed in 2000 as a $400 million bond program. Voters overwhelmingly approved a Clean Ohio renewal in 2008 and it has the strong support of many Ohio organizations, including the Ohio Farm Bureau and the Nature Conservancy of Ohio.
“The money has dried up and projects are going to start going south unless the General Assembly steps up and funds this program as they have been doing.
It has been very popular, but now it is languishing,” said Josh Knights, executive director of the Nature Conservancy in Ohio. “The Ohio Mid-Biennium Budget Review is the last chance to secure some funding. We’re now focusing on the Senate side where it has some strong supporters. This is really a program that a lot of other states have looked at. The benefits from these programs include stabilization of property values, enhanced agricultural operations, and improved quality of life for urban communities that make it more desirable for people to live there. This should be part of the Governor’s plan to make Ohio more competitive.”
It appears though, that the Kasich Administration will accept no amendments for increases in Clean Ohio funding.