Ohio lawmakers approve a $4.2 billion capital budget, the largest in state history

Ohio lawmakers have passed what the state budget director calls “the largest capital budget in the state’s history.” The $4.2 billion spending package passed smoothly in every chamber on what is expected to be the last day of the session before this fall’s elections.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Matt Dolan (R-Chagrin Falls) said the $717 million for community projects in Senate Bill 292 will provide good talking points for lawmakers this summer.

“When you go back to your community, you can say, ‘I got there. I fought for you. And I could provide a little bit of relief, a little bit of economic opportunity, or I could make your life better,” Dolan said.

The entire House and half of the Senate will be voted on this fall.

SB 292 provides $4.2 billion in improvements to state buildings, universities, parks and many projects that communities wanted. It also includes $717 million in one-time surplus state funds for local projects ranging from a convention center and tennis tournament in Cincinnati to a land bridge in downtown Cleveland and visitor centers at major park locations.

House Finance Committee Chairman Jay Edwards (R-Nelsonville) said he was surprised by one item that several communities requested: new pickleball courts.

“I never knew how popular the sport of pickleball was. I have never seen so many pickleball courts put into community projects,” Edwards said as members chuckled.

A handful of Republicans voted against the bill in the House of Representatives. In the Senate, only Sen. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg) objected, saying he was opposed to spending the $717 million on projects instead of tax relief.

“All the money we spend here. Every dollar. It’s not our money. It’s not mine. It is not the property of the Senate President. It does not belong to the Speaker of the House of Representatives or the Governor. It is taxpayers’ money,” Antani said.

The capital budget now goes to Governor Mike DeWine, who has indicated he will sign it.