Ohio lawmakers are pumping the brakes on Gov. Mike DeWine’s request for an 18-cent-per-gallon gas tax hike — just after the governor made a plea for the funding during his State of the State address.
The Ohio House is set to vote on the gas tax and the full transportation budget this afternoon.
DeWine said on Wednesday that he’ll continue to work with lawmakers on what he views as a public safety issue.
“I think 18-cents is the bare minimum. Eighteen cents allows us to keep our roads in good order. It allows us to focus on some dangerous intersections. It allows us to do a minimum of new work and new construction,” DeWine said.
The House Finance Committee changed the transportation budget bill to include a 10.7-cent per gallon tax increase for gasoline and a 20-cent per gallon hike for diesel fuel. Rather than imposing the entire tax increase at once, it’d be phased in over three years starting Oct. 1. Once fully implemented, it would raise about $872-million per year.
Owners of electric vehicles would be charged a $200 annual fee while owners of hybrids would pay $100.
Lawmakers also rejected DeWine’s request that the tax rate be tied to inflation, allowing it to rise each year without approval from the General Assembly.
The state gas tax, which last increased in 2005, is currently 28-cents-per-gallon. DeWine’s 18-cent increase would generate about $1.2 billion a year for roads and bridges, with 40 percent of that going to local governments. He called it a conservative, minimalist request.
“Our families should not be driving on roads that are crumbling and bridges that are failing,” said DeWine in his State of the State address. “The state has avoided its responsibility for too long—and now is the time to act. To do anything less is simply irresponsible.”
The new bill also includes a $70 million increase in money for public transit but transit authorities would be given authority to levy a tax for infrastructure projects.
It would also let cities and townships to levy an additional $5 motor vehicle registration fee; increases the deputy register fee to $5; reduces the number of notices from three to one that towing companies must send to vehicle owners; and prohibit skateboards from being attached to the back of vehicles.
Lawmakers also added language that would make it more difficult for cities to use traffic cameras to write tickets. It calls for reducing state money from the Local Government Fund by the same amount that a city collects in traffic camera revenues each year.
It would also eliminate the mandate that vehicles have front license plates. Ohio has required a front plate since 1908, except 1944-46 when Ohio wanted to conserve steel for the war effort. Owners of specialty cars have lobbied for dropping the front plate for several years.
The Ohio Department of Transportation will not be given blanket authority to impose variable speed limits across the state. Instead, the department will have to set up rules for variable speed limits through the Joint Committee on Agency Rule Review.
The amended bill is slated for a possible floor vote on Thursday in the House. After it clears the House, the bill moves to the Ohio Senate for consideration. It must be adopted by March 31 to take effect July 1 when the state fiscal year begins.
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