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Testimony: Biennial Operating Budget – As Pending in Senate Finance Committee (HB 59)

Ohio Environmental Council, May 31, 2013

Submitted to the Ohio Senate Finance Committee, by Jack Shaner, Deputy Director, Ohio Environmental Council.  

The Ohio Environmental Council respectfully submits the following interested party testimony on the Substitute Budget Bill (House Bill 59), as pending in the Senate Finance Committee.

A. Comments on changes included in Substitute Bill

1. Clean Ohio Fund

A. Bond Appropriations

Substitute Bill ADDS $26M per FY in bonding appropriation. This matches the House appropriation level, making $52M available for the new biennium. It also will complete the remaining bonding authorized by the voters in 2008.

OEC comment: SUPPORT Sub Bill provision. We heartily support this appropriation and thank the Senate for it. The Clean Ohio Fund is a successful land and water conservation fund with a solid track record. Clean Ohio has funded the protection of park land, the preservation of prime family farmland, the building of recreational trails, and the clean up and revitalization of former factory sites and other fallow brownfields in locally-nominated projects from all 88 counties. This innovative fund is delivering solid economic benefits. This appropriation will help satisfy the growing demand for projects – a demand that historically has always exceeded the supply of Clean Ohio funding.

B. Oil & Gas Revenues from State Park Drilling

Substitute Bill: REMOVES House amendment to split proceeds of oil and gas drilling in state parks between state parks and Clean Ohio Fund.

OEC comment: SUPPORT Sub Bill provision. We oppose extractive activity in our state parks, no matter how well intentioned or worthy the end recipient of the proceeds. As such, we thank the Senate for removing the House provision.

C. Legislative Study Committee on Clean Ohio and Brownfield Funding

Substitute Bill: Removes House amendment establishing the study committee

OEC comment: OPPOSE Sub Bill provision. We are disappointed the Senate rejected this House provision. When Ohio voters approved borrowing $400M in 2008, half of the fund was for the clean up and reuse of former industrial sites and other “brownfields.” Due to strong demand, those funds have long since been invested in successful local projects that today are paying dividends in the form of jobs and investment and tax revenue.

2. Lake Erie & Water Quality Monitoring

Substitute Bill:

-ADDS $300,000 per FY to the Healthy Lake Erie Fund

-ACCEPTS House addition of $250,000 per FY to Heidelberg Univ. Water Quality Lab

-ACCEPTS House addition of $285,000 to OSU Sea Grant

OEC comment: SUPPORT Sub Bill provision. We appreciate these appropriations and thank the Senate for them. We respectfully ask the Senate to consider additional funding to support even more comprehensive water quality monitoring. Additional monitoring will help identify problem areas and help direct where to concentrate efforts to have the greatest return on investment in keep nutrients on the land and out of the water. This will help protect Lake Erie, Grand Lake St. Marys and other inland lakes from the over-nutrification that is fueling toxic algae growth – a direct threat to water recreation and travel and tourism of our coastal economy.

3. BioOhio

Substitute Bill: Earmarks $500,000 in each FY from the Development Service Agency’s Workforce Development Initiative for BioOhio to fund the Bioscience Workforce Development Initiative.

OEC comment: SUPPORT Sub Bill provision. Making polymers from soybeans instead of oil. That’s one example of the green chemistry aspect of bioscience – designing goods and services that are sustainable and regenerate life rather than harm it or produce harmful byproducts. We are bullish on this amendment.

4. Public Records

Substitute Bill: Requires Department of Administrative Services to develop and propose standards for the posting of public records on the Internet website by a public office so that the information may be secured and downloaded in a uniform manner.

OEC comment: SUPPORT Sub Bill provision. The public will be better able to learn about and engage at the speed of business in the actions of its public offices when citizens are better able to access information. This provision may help enable that goal.

5. Transit Authorities

a.) Prohibit Pupil Transportation by Public Transit Buses

Substitute Bill: Removes House amendment to prohibit a school district from using public transit buses as a means to transport students in grades K through five to and from school.

OEC comment: SUPPORT Sub Bill provision. Many schoolchildren in both urban and rural areas rely on public transit agencies to provide safe, convenient, and cost-effective transportation to school. We appreciate the Senate’s thoughtful rejection of the House amendment.

b.) Permission to Operate Outside of Territorial Boundary

Substitute Bill: Provides that a transit authority cannot acquire, construct, improve, extend, repair, lease, operate, maintain, or manage a transit facility that is located outside the RTA’s territorial boundary until it has provided written notice of its proposed action to each affected political subdivision and has received from each such political subdivision an agreement containing the terms and conditions for the RTA action.

OEC comment: OPPOSE Sub Bill provision. This provision singles out public transportation for special duties that do not burden highway transportation. As such, we believe it is unfair, punitive, and counterproductive.

6. CDD Landfills & State Historic Sites

Substitute Bill: Repeals current law prohibiting the siting of a new construction and demolition debris landfill within 500 feet of a state historic landmark.

OEC comment: OPPOSE Sub Bill provision. State historic landmarks are hallowed ground and should not be desecrated or damaged by the disruptive operation (noise, lights, truck traffic, dust, odors) of a landfill operation.

Click on PDF to read full testimony.