GOPC’s Recommended Transportation Policies Signed Into Law

April 2nd, 2015

On Wednesday, April 1st, Governor Kasich signed the state transportation budget bill. This $7 billion budget bill includes two important provisions that GOPC strongly advocated for and that will help lay the foundation for a more diverse and modern transportation system in Ohio. GOPC’s successful policy provisions include:

  1. Performance metrics that allow for comparison of performance across transportation modes. The legislation directs ODOT to use these metrics to assist with statewide strategic planning processes and investment decisions (exact language can be found in Sec. 5501.08 of the transportation budget). With this new language, Ohio will be joining other states, such as Pennsylvania and North Carolina, in utilizing metrics to guide transportation investment. This provision should help public transportation compete for additional funding.
  2. Joint Legislative Task Force on Transportation Issues. Throughout the legislative process, GOPC championed the creation of a task force that would analyze transportation funding. This Task Force has a broader focus, but must report by December 31, 2016 on the funding needs and recommendations for funding transportation. There is significant bi-partisan support for this Task Force (the exact charges of the Task Force can be found in Sec. 775.40). This Task Force creates an opportunity to further explore funding options for multi-modal and public transit.

GOPC thanks the Legislature for considering these provisions and incorporating them into the final budget that went to the Governor.  Without support from key legislative champions, these provisions would not have been signed into law.

Click here to see the final transportation bill (follow the link for “Transportation and Public Safety Budget FY2016 and FY2017″).

GOPC Testifies to New Jersey Legislature on Benefits of Land Banking

March 18th, 2015
GOPC Testimony to NJ Legislature

Lavea Brachman testified alongside Alan Mallach of the Center for Community Progress on the merits of land banks.

On Monday, GOPC Executive Director Lavea Brachman gave testimony to the New Jersey legislature Housing and Community Development Committee on the status of land banks in Ohio to help inform their consideration of proposed land bank legislation for New Jersey.

At the invitation of the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey, Brachman gave the following remarks (excerpt from testimony):

“Similar to New Jersey, Ohio’s cities have been hit hard by urban blight and decline, experiencing some of the highest foreclosure and vacancy rates in the country. At its height in 2009, Ohio’s foreclosure filings was almost 90,000 per year, and the vacancy rates have climbed to devastating levels of over 15% in such cities as, Cleveland, Youngstown and Cincinnati, and over 20% in Dayton and many other cities and towns around the state.   These vacancies have also cost municipalities exponential amounts in collateral damage, represented in the form of public safety hazards and decreased property values.

In 2008, in response to this unparalleled foreclosure and vacant and abandoned property crisis, the Ohio General Assembly, with bipartisan support, passed legislation creating Ohio’s first county land bank, piloted in Cuyahoga County (where Cleveland is located). In 2010, GOPC and a coalition of partners from around the state successfully advocated for passage of legislation that extended land bank authority to an additional 42 out of Ohio’s 88 counties (based on a population threshold), permitting these specified counties to create a hybrid organization that combines the private sector efficiency of a non-profit corporation with the public purposes, powers and funding of a governmental organization.

Ohio land banks are a welcome example of a state policy implemented with appropriate local control intervening effectively to jumpstart local market operations. While Ohio communities have a long way to go to return to economic and physical health—and while there is room for land banks to maximize further use of their tools to help individuals thrive and achieve community revitalization—many cities and counties are actively leveraging their land banks’ capabilities demonstrating that well-intentioned state policy interventions in combination with local capacity and oversight can work in tandem with market operations. They are working so well that a recent proposal floated by the county treasurers’ association to expand land banks to the rest of the counties in the state.”

GOPC applauds the New Jersey legislature for considering the merits of land banks, which have made significant strides in blight elimination and neighborhood revitalization throughout Ohio.

Two GOPC Policy Recommendations Incorporated in Statewide Transportation Budget Bill

February 27th, 2015
The Ohio Statehouse

The Ohio Statehouse

Throughout February, Greater Ohio Policy Center has been testifying to the Ohio House of Representatives on the Ohio Department of Transportation’s (ODOT) biennium budget, calling for policies that would lead to a modern and diverse transportation system in Ohio.

The Ohio House Finance Committee has incorporated two of GOPC’s policy recommendations into the transportation budget bill that passed out of the House Finance committee in late February. As a direct result of GOPC’s testimony and educational efforts, the bill now includes:

Sec. 5501.08. The department of transportation, in order to assist in statewide strategic transportation planning, shall develop metrics that allow the comparison of data across transportation modes and that also incorporate the full spectrum of state strategic transportation goals, including all of the following:

(A)   Anticipated future costs of maintaining infrastructure in acceptable condition, both short-term and long-term;

(B)   Short-term economic impact, one to five years, and long-term economic impact, thirty years and longer;

(C)   Economic impact on a region’s future rate of job growth and job retention;

(D)   Motorist, bicyclist, and pedestrian counts, and number of accidents by mode.

Section 755.40. There is hereby created the Joint Legislative Task Force on Department of Transportation Funding. […] The Task Force shall examine the funding needs of the Ohio Department of Transportation. The Task Force also shall study specifically the issue of the effectiveness of the Ohio motor fuel tax in meeting those funding needs. Not later than December 15, 2016, the Task Force shall issue a report containing its findings and recommendations to the President of the Senate, the Minority Leader of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives. At that time, the Task Force shall cease to exist.

These provisions will help the state maximize resources and fully leverage the potential of Ohio’s multi-modal transportation system, which is essential to enhancing Ohio’s draw as a place where businesses can thrive and where people want to live.

The bill, Amended Substitute House Bill 53, will be voted on by the House of Representatives in early March. The Ohio Senate will begin hearings in early March and GOPC will be testifying in support of these two provisions, as well as other policy recommendations that could lead to a modern and diverse transportation system in Ohio.

GOPC applauds the House Finance Committee for its contributions to this proposed legislation.

 

GOPC Testifies on ODOT Budget

February 16th, 2015

GOPC calls for policies that would lead to a modern and diverse transportation system in Ohio

By Alison Goebel, Associate Director

Every two years, Ohio’s Governor submits a proposed Operating Budget to the General Assembly. This biennium budget for fiscal years 2016 and 2017 is proposed at $72.3 billion. Of that overall budget, $5.9 billion have been allocated to the Ohio Department of Transportation to support its capital projects and operations.

The Ohio Department of Transportation oversees and funds all modes of transportation in Ohio, including railroads, maritime ports, airports, state routes and highways, and public transportation.

Approximately 92% of ODOT’s biennium budget is to be used for the maintenance and construction of highways and bridges, which mostly translates into capital dollars for highway repair and expansion. Undoubtedly, Ohio’s highways are a critical asset to the state; with key national highways running through Ohio, the state must maintain the highways in good repair.

However, other modes are critical to the long-term economic health of the state, as well. In particular, public transit has always played, and will increasingly play, an essential role in job growth in the state. Public transit connects workers to jobs—low wage workers utilize public transit, as do “choice riders” who prefer the convenience of public transit to driving. National studies have confirmed again and again that young professionals are showing a strong preference for a range of transportation options.

To attract and retain young professionals in Ohio—the next generation of economic generators—the state of Ohio must assist local transit agencies in meeting the demands of this workforce.  Currently 2% of the ODOT budget goes to supporting Ohio’s 61 public transit agencies.

This past week, GOPC provided testimony to the House Finance Subcommittee on Transportation urging the Legislature to increase funding for public transit and to put into place policies that would help “level the playing field” for transit, bike and pedestrian infrastructure, and other options that would modernize the state’s transportation system and help prepare the state to attract and retain residents who expect a range of transportation choices.

GOPC will be providing similar testimony to the full House Finance Committee and the Senate Finance Committee in the coming weeks as the Legislature works to finalize the ODOT budget.

Let’s Talk Transit

October 20th, 2014

Health Line in Cleveland

ODOT Hosts Five Regional Stakeholder Meetings on the Future of Transit in Ohio

Join the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) at one of five regional stakeholder meetings to help shape a long-term strategy for meeting the needs of Ohio’s transit riders today and in the future.

Trends show there is a definite rise in the need for convenient, affordable public transportation to jobs, medical appointments, shopping and recreational activities. Ohio’s transit agencies are struggling to fund existing service, let alone meet increasing demand. From light rail and bus service in large cities to rural van services, the Ohio Statewide Transit Needs Study is examining existing transit needs and drafting recommendations for better addressing them. ODOT needs your input, comments and ideas!

Tuesday, Oct. 21, 2-4 PM
Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority
Board Room
1240 West 6th Street
Cleveland, OH 44113

Wednesday, Oct. 22, 2-4 PM
Hancock Family Center
1800 North Blanchard Street
Findlay, OH 45840

Thursday, Oct. 23, 2-4 PM
Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission
Scioto Room
111 Liberty Street
Columbus, OH 43215

Thursday, Oct. 30, 2-4 PM
Athens Community Center
701 East State Street
Athens, OH 45701

Friday, Oct. 31, 10 AM-12 PM
OhioMeansJobs Building
300 East Silver Street
Lebanon, OH 45036

Unable to attend? All meeting materials will be available online starting Oct. 21 at www.TransitNeedsStudy.ohio.gov. Comments accepted through Nov. 14.

Questions or comments? Email ODOT at Transit.Needs@dot.state.oh.us.

 

GOPC Endorses HB 223

May 27th, 2014

The Policy Committee of the Greater Ohio Policy Center Board of Directors recently voted to endorse HB 223 (130th GA). HB 223 would expedite the foreclosure and transfer of unoccupied, blighted parcels in cities with Housing Courts (Cleveland and Toledo) or Environmental Courts (Columbus/Franklin County).  The bill also allows for allows for property to be sold for less than 2/3 value to certified buyers in county sheriff sales.

HB 223 is sponsored by Representative Cheryl Grossman (R-Grove City) and Representative Mike Curtin (D-Marble Cliff).

This bill has a five year sunset, effectively creating a pilot program that GOPC anticipates will demonstrate great success.

GOPC’s Policy Committee has endorsed this bill because many communities continue to struggle to mitigate the impact of blighted properties in their neighborhoods.  Providing a framework to shorten the foreclosure timeline will help move properties from “limbo” to responsible end users.  In particular, the ability to buy property at less than 2/3 value at sheriff sales, acknowledges the value of sweat equity in turning around neighborhoods and provides a pathway for interested parties to buy and renovate properties for owner occupancy.

For more information on GOPC’s endorsement, please contact Alison D Goebel, Associate Director at agoebel@greaterohio.org.

A Primer on State Issue One

April 28th, 2014

By Raquel Jones, Intern

On May 6th, voters will choose whether or not to renew the state’s program for funding public infrastructure capital improvements by permitting the issuance of general obligation bonds. If renewed, this vote authorizes the state to continue selling bonds (for another 10 years) to fund much-needed improvement projects all over the state, such as construction on local roads, bridges, and water-supply systems.

Since the program was approved by voters via a constitutional amendment in 1987, it has helped to rebuild more than 11,500 local road, bridge, sewer, water and solid-waste projects, in all of Ohio’s 88 counties. The program provides up to 50 percent funding for new construction projects and up to 90 percent for repair-and-replacement projects.

The Ohio Public Works Commission currently allots $150 million each year to this program, however, under the new amendment, the state would increase the size of bonds to provide more money: $175 million in each of the first five years and $200 million in each of the next five years. That is a 39 percent increase in the money that local road and water-supply construction projects currently receive. Furthermore, it is projected that this program would create an estimated 3,500 additional construction and related jobs over the next decade.

The passage of this issue is especially critical at this time since the state’s current authorization to issue bonds against the state’s tax revenue expires in 2015 or whenever the state has maxed out the amount approved in the last bond issue. If this program were to expire, it would cut off a source of money for municipal construction projects and the estimated 35,000 workers employed on the projects.

The Ohio Chamber of Commerce, local governments, and nonprofits around the state have endorsed Issue 1.  For more information, the Ohio League of Women’s Voters has provided non-partisan, in-depth information here.

GOPC Applauds Transportation Reform in Pennsylvania

February 12th, 2014

The Greater Ohio Policy Center sends its belated congratulation to our smart growth colleague 10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania for leading a diverse coalition of stakeholders in successfully advocating for a $2.3 billion state transportation package in Pennsylvania.

In late 2013, Republican Governor, Tom Corbett, signed a bill that was advanced by the Republican-controlled legislature.  Under this transportation funding bill, Pennsylvania’s Department of Transportation will:

  • Creates a multi-modal fund that grows from $30 to $144 million over a 5-year period, to which bicycle and pedestrian projects can apply for funding; and sets an annual minimum of $2 million of that fund to be spent on bicycle and pedestrian facilities;
  • new revenue streams for transit will generate $49 million to $60 million statewide in the current fiscal year and $476 million to $497 million in year five.
  • Funding for repairing deficient bridges and roads

This package is expected create 50,000 new jobs and preserve 12,000 existing jobs, according to the Governor’s office.

Funding for this work will come from the gradual elimination of the limit on the wholesale tax on gasoline, and increased fees on licenses, permits and traffic tickets.

Together, multi-modal advocates, road contractors, business leaders and policymakers made the economic case for this visionary, game-changing budget.  GOPC congratulates all advocates and applauds Pennsylvania’s General Assembly and Governor.

GOPC Testifies on the DataOhio Initiative

January 29th, 2014

On January 29th, Greater Ohio’s Alison Goebel gave interested party testimony on a package of bills that would create the “DataOhio Initiative.”  Introduced by Representatives Duffey (R-Worthington) and Hagan (R-Alliance), the DataOhio Initiative will help local governments standardize information about themselves and develop a clearinghouse where information about local and state governments can be easily located.

GOPC has long expressed concern regarding the lack of standardized data in Ohio.  We believe the DataOhio Initiative will provide the first crucial step to creating the tools local governments and the state need to make data-driven, evidence-based decisions. These decisions should help communities modernize procedures, maximize resources, attract jobs and businesses, and plan for sustainable, prosperous futures.

GOPC is excited about the possibility DataOhio holds to help government officials find underutilized dollars through “apples to apples” comparisons with their peers and the  ability to use the data to systematically uncover opportunities to share services and implement best practices.

  • HB 321’s requirement to de-silo information and make information machine-readable is essential for any data analysis.  The creation of a DataOhio Board ensures there is a face to the Initiative and a resource for participating entities.
  • HB 322’s requirement to use a uniform accounting standard allows communities, researchers, private citizens and funding sources to track performance over time.  More importantly, a mechanism that creates apples to apples comparisons helps identify best practices and opportunities for government efficiencies and cost savings.
  • By gathering and indexing the universe of data available in Ohio, HB 323 will enrich and strengthen research while also saving users time.
  • Last, and perhaps most important, HB 324 assists communities in meeting these requirements.  The cost savings and opportunities to share services or resources that will arise from a methodical understanding of our local governments will more than make up the foregone revenue of the Grant program.

To take the necessary steps that will ensure the long term sustainability, economic competitiveness, and physical attractiveness of our communities, decisions and development strategies must be data-driven and evidence-based.  GOPC is pleased to see that DataOhio holds the possibilities of providing that crucial information.

Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program Update

December 20th, 2013

Through early December, progress continued on the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program legislation with proponent testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee.

As discussed in earlier blog posts, Senate Bill 149 and House Bill 219 propose to create a program that would offer a tax credit to businesses that make monetary donations to catalytic community development projects.

At the second hearing on November 20th GOPC provided testimony in partnership with coalition member Ohio CDC Association and explained the design specifics of the program and discussed successes other states have experienced with similar programs. At the third House Ways and Means Committee hearing on December 4th, testimony was given from varying perspectives. Taris Vrcek, Executive Director of McKees Rocks CDC in Pennsylvania relayed a compelling story of decades long disinvestment in this first ring suburb of Pittsburgh (and Governor Kasich’s hometown) reversed by Neighborhood Partnership Program tax credits that resulted in the renovation of the historic Roxian Theatre, brownfield remediation and central business district revitalization.

Tim Bete, President, St. Mary Development Corporation described the complexity of development financing, the resource contraction facing the industry, the catalytic impacts of community economic development projects, and the desire for NIAP funding in Ohio. Mike Gonsiorowski, Regional President of PNC Bank in Columbus provided written testimony explaining their many years of experience participating in similar tax credit programs in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The proponent testimonies significantly contributed to the momentum and energy around this proposed program. The General Assembly is on holiday break and the effort will continue in the New Year. The coalition greatly appreciates the commitment and travels of the testimony team.

For background information and written testimony on the Neighborhood Infrastructure Assistance Program, please click here.