Millions of central Ohio state tax dollars are going to a museum some Franklin county residents may never or will ever set foot in. As part of the capital budget approved last week, millions of state tax dollars are paying to help expand the Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
Some are calling this a misuse of state tax dollars.
The Cleveland Museum of Natural history has been under construction for some time, it’s now entering phase II of its $150 million dollar Centennial Campaign. The project aims to upgrade every part of its campus by 2020 in an effort to bring its exhibits and programs up to date. It’s an exciting venture for the museum and Cleveland area families that you’re helping pay for.
The capital budget has earmarked $2.5 million in state tax dollars to help in the expansion, it’s a move critics are saying many are paying for, where few may benefit. “These are state tax dollars,” said Greg Lawson with the Buckeye Institute, which tracks government spending. Lawson calls it a pork project, “Why is a Columbus taxpayer or a Westerville taxpayer paying for that, out of their own money,” Lawson added. Lawson said local or private dollars would be better spent here, while state dollars should go to state needs, “There is a lot of physical infrastructure needs that the cities across the state are having problems with, their sewer system, having to upgrade those,” Lawson said.
Supporters call it a community project that accounts for 5% of the overall capital budget. At a recent budget meeting Representative Ryan Smith (R-Bidwell) said these projects are designed to spur economic development across the state, “It’s a chance for us to invest in the communities throughout Ohio,” Smith added, “All of this is designed to make our communities the best place to live, work and play.”
A spokesman for the Speaker of the House of Representatives said projects like this are typically brought forward by legislators and communities leaders with the goal of incentivizing growth in needed areas of the state.
The Cleveland Museum of Natural History plans to finish all upgrades by 2020, its centennial year. The first phase saw a construction of a new wildlife center, landscaped garden and a new parking garage.