In the spirit of the holiday season, the Ohio House on Wednesday passed legislation loaded with about $54 million in state money for various projects, including $15 million to help build a new Columbus Crew soccer stadium.
The Ohio Senate must now decide whether to approve the spending, hurriedly tacked onto Senate Bill 51 by the House Finance Committee less than 24 hours before Wednesday’s floor vote.
The proposed $230 million stadium near downtown Columbus includes $50 million each from the city of Columbus and Franklin County. The bulk of the money for the project would be provided by Cleveland Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam, as well as longtime Crew team physician Dr. Peter H. Edwards Jr.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers balked at Cincinnati City Council’s request for $10 million in state money to help build a soccer stadium there. Legislators ultimately approved just $4 million.
But state Rep. Bill Seitz, a Cincinnati Republican, voiced support of the bill and read a statement from Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley endorsing the larger amount of cash for Columbus.
“We are [in] a generous Christmas, sharing, inclusive mode,” said Seitz, one of 66 House members to vote for the legislation.
Other items added by the House include:
- $20 million to reconstruct the Statehouse underground parking garage;
- $15 million for flood-control efforts along the Blanchard River, which runs through the city of Findlay;
- $2 million toward repairing the Ohio’s Governor’s Mansion in the Columbus suburb of Bexley;
- Approving the transfer of the Ocasek Government Building in downtown Akron from the state to the city of Akron.
House members preserved the original language of SB 51 – allowing businesses along the Lake Erie shoreline to tax themselves to pay for improvement projects.
State Rep. Jay Edwards, an Athens County Republican who joined 24 others in voting against the bill, said the bill includes a lot of money for cities such as Columbus and Findlay but not for his home region of Southeast Ohio.
“I just think that this bill continues to leave behind an area of the state, and similar areas around the state, that feel like they are constantly overlooked,” Edwards said.
State Rep. Niraj Antani, a Dayton-area Republican, voted for the bill but expressed strong opposition to providing $20 million in taxpayer money for the Statehouse parking garage when motorists already pay to use the garage.