Transportation budget, gas tax approved by Ohio House

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The Ohio House has passed a transportation budget bill that includes increases in the state’s gas and diesel taxes to help maintain roads and bridges.

The House passed the bill Thursday by a vote of 71-27. It now heads to the Ohio Senate for consideration.

The bill now proposes to increase the gas tax by 10.7 cents per gallon over two years and the diesel tax by 20 cents per gallon over three years. Both would start Oct. 1.

After the bill was approved, Republican Gov. Mike DeWine thanked lawmakers for taking swift action to approve the budget.

“With a constitutional budget deadline facing us on April 1, I want to thank Speaker Householder and Leader Sykes, Chair Oelslager and Ranking Member Cera, and members of the House for taking swift action to begin to address a looming crisis in transportation funding.

“The House-passed bill is far from ideal, but I appreciate the strong bipartisan acknowledgment that our state and local jurisdictions have a major revenue shortage to deal with vital transportation needs.

“I am very open to dialogue with the legislature on this issue, but I continue to believe that our proposal as introduced provides the money it takes to do the job right. I plan to work with the Senate to improve the House-passed bill and work toward a final agreement that funds vital maintenance, new construction, promotes jobs, makes our state more competitive, and enhances safety for the driving public.”

DeWine proposed increasing the current 28-cents-per-gallon tax by 18 cents a gallon. He’s said the House bill’s tax increase isn’t enough for needed repairs and construction.

The legislation approved Thursday also would provide public transit with $100 million a year in federal transportation funds. DeWine proposed $40 million.

After voting against this tax increase, Rep. Niraj Antani released the following statement:

I voted against this tax increase because my constituents elected me to represent their best interests, not to help take money out of their pockets. With wages stagnant and people working hard at 2 jobs to make ends meet, people across Ohio should not have to give up more of their paychecks. A factory worker, teacher, or single mother does not need a tax increase that makes it more expensive to get to work or pick up their kids from school. I signed a pledge to taxpayers to vote against all tax increases and today I fulfilled my pledge. We should be cutting taxes, not raising them. While funding the repair of roads and bridges is important, we should dedicate general revenue fund dollars to it instead of raising taxes.”

The gas tax increases will yield approximately $872 million and would be gradually increased over the span of the phase-in period, according to Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder.

The motor fuel tax on gasoline would be phased-in by 7 cents in 2019 and 3.7 cents in 2020. The motor fuel tax on diesel would be phased-in over a three year period. This tax would increase by 10 cents in 2019, 6 cents in 2020, and 4 cents in 2021.

The increases will be divided 55/45 between the Ohio Department of Transportation and local governments, increasing local revenue to approximately $390 million per year, according to Householder.

Additionally, electric vehicles will be charged $200 and hybrid vehicles will be charged $100 yearly in registration fees to contribute to Ohio’s transportation improvements. The House plan also increases investment in public transit to $100 million annually per year, according to Householder.

“Chairman Oelslager and the Ohio House Finance Committee worked tirelessly to fund Ohio’s transportation needs,” said Householder. “The House plan fulfills Ohio’s immediate transportation and public safety needs, and looks toward the future. It provides innovative ways to enhance Ohio’s transportation infrastructure, and ensures that we as a legislature have oversight and accountability over the Ohio Department of Transportation.”

State Rep. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) voted to move the transportation budget to the Senate for consideration.

“I’m pleased that we were able to negotiate $200 million for public transit over the next two years, which is crucial to my district as our population continues to grow,” said Russo. “I was also a strong advocate for increasing the share of funding that would go directly to local governments, helping to ease the strain that repeated local government funding cuts have placed on municipalities and townships across Ohio over the last 8 years. It is imperative that these gains are fully maintained as the transportation budget moves through the Senate.”Ohio has the 14th highest transit ridership of any state in the country, but currently ranks near the bottom in state funding for public transportation. A 2015 ODOT study found that significant investments are needed to meet the state’s growing public transit demands.

In addition, Democratic amendments will ease some of the burden on local communities, which currently face an estimated $1.5 billion shortfall for road and bridge repairs, according to Russo.

“I’m glad that we were able to negotiate a phase-in period and a lower tax rate than what the governor proposed, while also securing more money for our districts,” Russo continued. “I think that it is important as we continue into broader budget discussions to find meaningful ways to offset the cost of this tax for everyday Ohioans.”

“This bill is a good start,” Russo concluded. “Our roads, bridges, and public transit desperately need increased investment from the state, as evidenced by the wide-ranging coalition of mayors, local governments, and public/private partnerships supporting the transportation budget. When the final bill is put before the chamber, I will insist on these important wins for the people of Ohio.”

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