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COSI, Market Tower make groups list of worst capital budget projects

(March 5, 2018) — A conservative public policy group on Monday detailed what it thinks are Ohio’s top 10 worst capital budget requests — including COSI and the new Market Tower — saying Ohio’s budget is riddled with “pork projects.”

The Buckeye Institute, which advocates for restrained government spending, slammed state leaders for the list of local community projects, which includes several in and around Columbus.

“Policymakers should do more to heed our call to focus the capital budget on strengthening Ohio’s physical and democratic infrastructure and move away from projects of predominantly local interest,” Greg Lawson, a research fellow at the Buckeye Institute, said in the report. “Simply put, it is hard to see how it benefits someone in Youngstown for Cincinnati to get a soccer stadium or how people in Cleveland benefit from renovations to COSI.”

The $2.6 billion capital budget includes $147 million for community projects — down from $160 million two years ago. Three Columbus-based projects made the Institute’s list of 10 worst requests:

$5 million for COSI to design and begin construction of a $40 million glass-enclosed corridor, using COSI to connect the riverfront and Scioto Park.

$1 million for two Columbus Zoo Exhibits, an orangutan habitat and renovations to the elephant habitat.

$1 million for an atrium to connect an upcoming 35-story office and residential Market Tower to the nearby North Market.

The Institute’s report says such projects should be privately or locally funded rather than funded through the state. The Institute urged legislators to constrain the growth of state government, eliminate corporate and special interest welfare, and focus spending on the core functions of state government.

Ohio Senate President Larry Obhof has said $15 million of the community projects funds would go toward fighting the opioid epidemic. The state budget also allocates $600 million for school construction and $222 million for facilities for mental health, addiction treatment and developmental disabilities.

Funding for health and human services facilities doubled from what was allocated two years ago. The budget is expected to pass in mid-March.

Obhof spokesman John Fortney said Monday that capital budget projects are heavily vetted, and many are denied.

“This bill reflects a continued commitment to not only a critical local infrastructure and traditional cultural projects, but a strengthened commitment to communities fighting opioid addiction on the front lines,” Fortney said.

The other requests on the Institute’s worst list:

$400,000 to build government-owned broadband networks in North Olmsted, Southern Miami Valley, and Fairborn.

$800,000 for six splash pads around the state.

$2.5 million to expand the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

$1.3 million to renovate the Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls.

$4 million for a new Major League Soccer stadium in Cincinnati, if the city gets an an expansion team.

$1.2 million for renovations to Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.

$1 million for renovations to the Toledo Museum of Art.