Two Ohio state representatives introduced legislation to create a trust fund for preserving Ohio’s lakes and rivers.
Reps. Haraz N. Ghanbari, R-Perrysburg, and John Patterson, D-Jefferson, introduced House Bill 7, which would create the H2Ohio Endowment Board, which will manage the multimillion dollar trust fund. The budget bill that passed last week includes $86 million for the first two years of the fund.
“Seventy percent of the world’s surface is covered by water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives along the water; and 90 percent of the world’s trade moves by the water,” Ghanbari said in a news release. “I am thankful my colleague Mr. Patterson has joined me in co-sponsoring this bipartisan piece of legislation, which sends a clear and indisputable message that the Ohio House of Representatives understands the urgency of restoring the vitality of Ohio’s lakes and rivers and ensuring their sustainability for generations to come.”
The legislation creates a permanent endowment that is designed to protect the state’s natural resources. Ohio borders Lake Erie and just under 9 percent of its total jurisdiction is covered by natural waters, which is higher than the national average of 7 percent.
The fund will be under the watch of the state treasurer, but will be outside of the state treasury. It will receive state taxpayer money, but will also be eligible to receive federal money, donations, land and titles to land.
Funds will be administered by the board, which will consist of 12 term-limited members appointed by the governor, the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate.
The plan was initially proposed by Republican Gov. Mike DeWine back in March to prevent problems with water quality before they happen.
“Governor DeWine is appreciative of the House of Representatives making H2Ohio a high priority,” Spokesperson Dan Tierney told The Center Square. “We look forward to continuing the legislative process as it relates to funding this important initiative.”
Rea Hederman, the executive director of the Economic Research Center and vice president of policy at The Buckeye Institute, a free-market think tank in Ohio, said in an email that protecting water quality is important.
“The Great Lakes is an important source of water for many Ohioans,” Hederman said. “If the water becomes too polluted, major urban areas may not have drinkable water. Clean drinkable water should be a government priority.”
However, Hederman said that the legislature needs to cut unnecessary spending to pay for this project, instead of increasing overall spending.
“Unfortunately, Ohio policymakers are not using the budget process to set priorities, which often means making hard choices,” Hederman said. “Instead, Ohio policymakers are trying to spend more now and more money in the future by not funding this initiative through the budget process. Instead, the Ohio budget has a great deal of spending on pork projects instead of clean water.”
The bill will be assigned to a committee to await a hearing.