The H2Ohio fund created by Gov. Mike DeWine and legislators in 2019 is a critical long-term work in progress. It aims, most prominently, at reducing, and eventually ending, dangerous toxic algal blooms in western Lake Erie by creating more local accountability on phosphorus-reduction plans, more farmer buy-in, improved monitoring of streams and rivers, widened use of agricultural best practices and the creation of new wetlands and other buffers.
But that’s far from H2Ohio’s totality. The program also seeks to ensure that both Ohioans and the state’s priceless freshwater resources are protected amid soaring water infrastructure costs, as price tags climb for lead service-line replacements, mandated septic-system upgrades, and modernized drinking-water and wastewater treatment plants.
If all that sounds like a big order, it is. It’s a critically big order that needs sustained funding to match. The payoff will be equally grand, in ensuring that Ohio doesn’t squander its most important natural asset — bountiful freshwater resources.
But do state lawmakers share DeWine’s commitment to H2Ohio? The first big test is here, as the General Assembly debates the next biennial budget for fiscal years 2022-23, that is, for the two years starting this July 1.
And judging from the 38% slice the Ohio House just took out of DeWine’s H2Ohio budget request, lawmakers are failing that test. The Ohio Senate, of course, has a chance to restore the governor’s full request, and it should — and House legislators should reconsider.
But the uncertainty of relying on biennial budgets is why a bipartisan proposal from two northern Ohio lawmakers to put a $1 billion, ten-year, clean-water bond issue on the Nov. 8, 2022 ballot to underwrite H2Ohio for the next decade is so welcome.
Senate Joint Resolution 2, offered by state Sens. Theresa Gavarone, a Wood County Republican, and Kenny Yuko, a Richmond Heights Democrat, if passed, would put before voters a constitutional amendment next year allowing up to $100 million in bond proceeds annually to go to “clean-water improvements.” SJR 2 should be adopted.
… Those who care about the well-being and quality of life of Ohioans and about the state’s future prosperity should recognize how critical H2Ohio is to the calculus of both. That means sustained, meaningful funding for this initiative — if not by the legislature, then through a bond issue.
— Cleveland Plain Dealer, April 30