More Than a Toll Increase Needed to Fund Ohio's Transportation Projects

A 2.7% increase on Ohio Turnpike Tolls and the new bonds that revenue will generate will not be enough to repair Ohio's aging road and bridge network, so a task force will recommend strategies - one of which must be elimination of the gas excise tax.
July 2, 2013, 10am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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The Plain Dealer's veteran transportation reporter, Tom Breckenridge writes that Gov. John Kasich's transportation plan, largely based on "(r)aising up to $3 billion through the Ohio Turnpike (bonding for $1.5 billion plus matching funds) won't be enough to solve Ohio's transportation woes."

Unlike other state transportation budgets that this week saw increased revenue due to increased and/or additional fuel taxes (among them Calif., Conn., Ky., Md., Vt.Wy.), a small increase on the Ohio Turnpike appears to be the only new income generator.

Breckenridge writes on June 17 that "(t)urnpike users will pay higher tolls over the next 10 years to back the bonds, under Gov. John Kasich's plan (signed by the governor on April 1). Tolls would increase 2.7 percent a year (for 10 years) to help pay for projects that otherwise faced years of delay due to lagging revenue at the Ohio Department of Transportation."

The bill also allows the state, for the first time, to use toll revenue from the Ohio Turnpike for projects beyond the 241-mile toll road's borders (Breckenridge, April 1).

However, Breckenridge writes that priority will go to "major projects, such as new or wider roads that relieve congestion and boost local economies" rather than what county engineers had proposed - lower priced projects comprising "sorely needed local work, including rad resurfacing and bridge repairs."

In addition, according to the legislation, "a task force of state lawmakers will recommend as a long-term funding strategy for the Ohio Department of Transportation", and while it will be required by its charter to "look at eliminating the state gas tax", it's doubtful it would recommend raising the 28-cent gas tax, last raised a decade ago, because Gov. Kasich indicated he would be opposed to it.

Contributor's Note: For a comprehensive list of gas and diesel tax changes effective July 1, see the Citizens For Tax Justice, June 27 article. "According to a comprehensive analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP), ten states will see either their gasoline or diesel tax rise next week."

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Published on Sunday, June 23, 2013 in The Plain Dealer
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