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Ohio lawmakers faced with task of agreeing on transportation budget by March 31

By Holly Shively • Mar 23, 2019 at 2:00 PM

The Ohio Senate voted for a 6-cent increase in the gasoline tax Thursday, a defeat for Gov. Mike DeWine who asked lawmakers for an 18-cent-per-gallon increase to fix the state’s roads and bridges.

The increase is part of the transportation budget under heavy debate among the legislature.

The 6-cent increase is about one-third the increase requested by Gov. DeWine and roughly 5 cents less than the 10.7-cent hike approved by the House earlier this month. The diesel tax would also increase 6 cents, down from the 20 cents proposed by the House.

The total fuel tax would be 34 cents for both gasoline and diesel under the Senate plan.

Senator Peggy Lehner, R-Kettering, reluctantly voted yes for the bill to push it onto the next stage.

“I’m hoping when the process is complete we will come much closer to the true cost of maintaining our infrastructure,” she said, noting the large difference between the Senate’s plan and DeWine’s request.

DeWine has argued that his gas tax hike request of 18 cents per gallon is the minimum needed to catch up with backlogged road and bridge projects, declaring a state of emergency for 37 Ohio counties that have “suffered serious highway damage following severe weather that started in February.”

“If people think the roads are bad today, if we don’t step up and do what we need to do, these roads are going to get even worse,” the first-year Republican governor said.

Greene, Butler, Preble and Warren counties were included on the list.

“When we are unable or unwilling to fund transportation costs, projects don’t happen. Guard rails aren’t put up and new roads aren’t built and when we don’t build new roads, economic development suffers,” Lehner said.

The Senate’s fuel tax would total $400 million in revenue for construction of roads and bridges each year, down from $1.2 billion generated from DeWine’s proposal. The House’s plan would have generated $800 million.

Ohio’s gas tax has not increased from 28 cents per gallon since 2005. Currently, it is less than all surrounding states except Kentucky.

The Senate also recommended increasing current public transit funding to $46.5 million from the current $33 million. But the value is down from the $100 million legislators in the House voted for earlier this month.

“I still feel that it falls short especially when it comes to prioritizing public transit. We have heard over and over again from the people in the state of Ohio that we need to move in a direction where public transit is a priority,” said Sen. Nickie Antonio, D-Lakewood.

The Senate’s version of the bill would also require Ohio vehicles to continue carrying two license plates. The House had previously introduced provisions to end the requirement for a front plate.

The legislation also renames Route 122 in Middletown extending to Towne Boulevard in Warren County as the SFC Charles E. Carpenter Memorial Highway and renames Route 63 in Lebanon and part of Warren County as the SFC John E. Conger, Jr. Memorial Highway.

Other changes to the Senate version include:

• New hybrid and electric vehicle fees of $75 and $175 respectively will take effect at the start of 2020,

• Future governors will be required to introduce transportation budgets earlier,

• Active duty military members and spouses stationed out of state can renew their licenses online and language was removed that banned skateboards from riding behind vehicles.

House Speaker Larry Householder said he is “very, very concerned” that the two chambers will be unable to work out a transportation budget that the governor is willing to sign by the March 31 deadline. The House, he said, is preparing a short-term transportation budget in case it’s needed, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

Now that both houses have voted, a conference committee is expected to meet next week to hash out a final version of the budget due at the end of the month.

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©2019 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

Visit the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio) at www.daytondailynews.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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