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February 7, 2019 11:00 AM, EST

Gas-Tax Hike Needed for Roads, Maintenance, Ohio Transportation Panel Says

Ohio Construction on Interstate 75 in Dayton, Ohio. (Skip Peterson/Associated Press)

After two meetings, a committee formed by Gov. Mike DeWine to study options for fixing a shortfall in money for road construction and maintenance has come to a consensus that the state gasoline tax needs to increase.

Ohio’s 28-cents-per-gallon gas tax was last raised in 2005, and the upcoming state transportation budget is expected to contain significantly less money for state and local road paving and maintenance work — and no money for additional major interstate projects — without additional revenue.

Dean Ringle, a committee member and executive director of the County Engineers Association of Ohio, said the group agreed that the gas tax “is the most consistent option of providing a good portion of the funds needed. It’s probably not going to take care of everybody.”

The committee, which includes representatives from local government, oil and gas, and road-construction interests, listened to two hours of testimony Feb. 6. Most of those who spoke either specifically advocated increasing the gas tax, which is 6 cents below the national average, or generally called for additional road revenue.

Those testifying included leaders of the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, the Columbus Regional Airport Authority and the Central Ohio Transit Authority.

Construction

New bridge construction in Cleveland, Ohio. (Amy Sancetta/Associated Press)

State Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks said the revenue hole is about $500 million for maintenance, $250 million for safety projects and $250 million for major projects. Each penny increase in the gas tax would raise about $67 million a year.

The committee is not yet recommending the size of the gas-tax increase or whether increases should be automatically indexed to inflation. A member of DeWine’s staff is expected to write a committee report next week.

Ringle, a former Franklin County engineer, said there also is recognition that, in the future, alternative funding sources will be needed as more vehicles are equipped with electric or hybrid engines. “I think everybody agreed a user fee is the fairest. It’s just how that would be implemented.”

DeWine is less than two weeks from introducing his two-year transportation budget.

Neither House Speaker Larry Householder (R-Glenford) nor Senate President Larry Obhof ( R-Medina) has ruled out a gas-tax increase.

“I told the governor that we would be willing to keep our powder dry and hear them out, and listen to what the facts are and make decisions,” Householder said Feb. 6.

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