With a 72,000 vote edge late Tuesday night, Issue 1 passed, meaning a $700 million dollar continuation of the Third Frontier Program, and likely millions of dollars for Ohio State.
Started by the Taft administration in 2002 and embraced by current Gov. Ted Strickland, the Third Frontier Program was a 10-year, $1.4 billion program designed to expand Ohio’s technological research, development and commercialization. OSU has received $177 million from the program so far.
In the months leading up to Tuesday’s vote, Gov. Strickland and President E. Gordon Gee championed the program’s success and campaigned for its continuation.
“All Ohio registered voters have the opportunity to help secure a brighter future for our state and our university system,” Gee said in an e-mail to students and faculty last week.
Gee cited an independent study by SRI International, a nonprofit research and development organization, headquartered in California, that says the program has generated 48,000 new jobs and 571 new companies since 2002. Additionally, approximately 3,000 internships have been granted to college students through the Third Frontier Internship program.
In a conference call with The Lantern, Strickland emphasized how important the issue was to the state, which has lost 400,000 jobs in the past three years.
“It’s important not just to the state’s future, but to the future of students,” he said. “We believe it is the most effective economic development and job creation tool available.”
Though the issue enjoyed largely bipartisan support, with just 13 out of 99 house members opposing it, there were still some vocal critics who called it “corporate welfare.” With Ohio facing an estimated $8 billion budget shortfall next year, the opposition felt $700 million more in government spending was irresponsible.
Though taxes will not increase with its passage, Issue 1 is estimated to cost $217.6 million in interest payments.
But after Ohioans cast their votes Tuesday, the opposition was again in the minority. With around $400 million left in the original funds, and now $700 million more on the way, the Third Frontier Program will continue funding technological research in the state, and at OSU.
“It has proven effectiveness,” Strickland said. “And it is so important to our university communities.”