Lauren Karch

State funds for a stimulus package Gov. Ted Strickland signed in June are tied up in a manner of ways, halting the ability of the state to follow through with job creation projects focused on advanced energy and biomedical industries.

The Ohio Bipartisan Stimulus Plan puts $1.57 billion into projects headed by eight different departments.

However, the Ohio Tobacco Prevention Foundation is suing the state with claims that $230 million must be used specifically for tobacco prevention. Strickland also vetoed legislators’ requests to use $200 million from the rainy day fund for infrastructure projects. Lawmakers also have to follow through on an agreement to allocate $370 million in general tax revenue to the stimulus.

That leaves about half of the funding for the stimulus plan in the air as state and local governments feel the squeeze of the current economic climate.

Butler County is set to receive about $5.5 million in public works. Oxford will see $252,000 in improvements to its well system; while Hamilton, Middletown, and other surrounding cities will be starting various water, sewer and road improvement projects.

The stimulus plan took effect 90 days after its June 12, 2008 signing, with the first round of funding distributed Oct. 16, 2008 through preservation tax credit-used to refurbish historic buildings.

“The governor believes the Ohio bipartisan stimulus plan will make investments in job-creating industries and in the state’s communities, infrastructure and workforce lay a foundation for long-term economic growth,” said Amanda Wurst, spokesperson for the governor’s office. “It should spur job creation in Ohio and, at the same time, link Ohio graduates to those jobs through the co-ops and internships part of the package.”

Funding for the stimulus package comes from a variety of sources, Wurst said.

“Many of the components are being funded through pending bond sales, bonds being sold by the state,” she said. “Some of the money is also coming from the state tobacco settlement.”

The Ohio Public Works Commission will distribute one of the largest chunks of money, with $400 million in existing public infrastructure projects.

“We have $240 million that we’re administering right now,” said Ohio Public Works Commission Director Michael Miller. “We’ve received $120 million through the state stimulus package as of now, and we received another $120 million through a state bond bill. We’ve combined that money to administer to local public works projects.”

The Ohio Public Works Commission is currently contributing funding to more than 300 projects around the state, after awarding about half of the money for 2009 projects.

“Most of these projects should start within a calendar year,” Miller said.

The stimulus will invest in internships and co-ops through Ohio’s Higher Education Workforce Initiative.Tax credits will be provided for the restoration of historic buildings and the Public Works Commission will receive funds for existing infrastructure projects.

Strickland is expected to introduce the state budget for the next fiscal year in early February. He will give his State of the State Address Wednesday.