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Look at Investing in Ohio Initiative

Ohio lawmakers begin work on the next two-year budget cycle, Gov. Mike DeWine has thrown them the $1 billion Investing in Ohio Initiative. The idea is that at a time when frozen state spending and other factors have meant some savings, and there is a temporary increase in the availability of federal money, why not make a one-time investment to “spur growth and economic renewal across the state,” as DeWine said?

Among the expenditures would be $20 million for businesses that opened last year and missed out on other pandemic aid; $40 million for indoor entertainment venues; $200 million in grants for bars and restaurants; $200 million for local infrastructure projects; $250 million to increase broadband internet access; and $50 million to promote Ohio as a good place to move, work and raise families.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? But how much good will it do, and who is going to make sure all that taxpayer money is spent properly? Anytime governments start using words like “investment” or talk vaguely about “helping communities,” the door opens to those who would use those good intentions to commit fraud, or who have their own good intentions but maybe not the most solid plan at which to toss tax dollars.

Lawmakers will be right to ask a lot of questions. They will also need to get their acts together in finally passing a new school funding plan, if Ohio is to brag about its education system; and address any lingering questions about whether diversity, inclusion and social justice are as important to Buckeye State residents as those who might be interested in moving here would like it to be.

Should they find satisfactory answers to those questions, and be willing to work toward making the difference DeWine appears to hope his initiative will spark, the idea is an important one, as Ohio beings to more FORWARD from this pandemic.

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