Local projects survive in tough budget year

CLEVELAND (AP) - Lawmakers who struggled to balance the state's two-year budget preserved more than $26 million for 48 statewide and local projects.

Supporters said the set-asides are standard practice and give elected officials a way to endorse worthy projects.

The earmarks represent 0.05 percent of the state's $48.8 billion budget.

They include $440,000 for an expanded water quality laboratory at private Heidelberg College, $500,000 for historic street restoration in the village of Dennison and $10,000 for police protection in the small southeastern Ohio community of Nelsonville, according to budget analysis by The Plain Dealer.

Many projects favored by Gov. Bob Taft were approved in the budget. Among the earmarks Taft secured: $1 million for the governor's Commission on Higher Education and the Economy and $500,000 for his task force on financing student success.

House Speaker Larry Householder said the GOP-controlled House wouldn't add the projects unless at least two of the 99 representatives supported it.

"These earmarks are the Legislature's opportunity to put their own stamp on projects that otherwise are underfunded or, sometimes, not funded at all," said Householder, a Glenford Republican.

The largest single earmark was $9 million for the Ohio Association of Second Harvest Foodbanks.

Sen. Jim Jordan, the Urbana Republican who protested the 2004-05 budget's reliance on a penny increase in the state sales tax, said he has sought set-asides in the past but didn't this year.

"In light of the budget situation the way it was, it probably didn't make sense to do a bunch of it this time," Jordan said.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)