COLUMBUS, Ohio–In Tuesday’s State of the State Address, Ohio Republican Governor Mike DeWine made it very clear he would not back down on the 18 cent gas tax, leaving many state Republicans in a complicated position.
In his Address, DeWine made it clear that, not only was the gas tax absolutely necessary but that an 18 cent per gallon increase (generating an additional $1.2 billion per year) was also the bare minimum necessary to address the needs of the state.
“Our local jurisdictions and the state have a combined shortfall this year and for years into the
future of at least $1.2 billion dollars per year. It will take this much additional revenue just for
us to maintain our roads in their current condition and do only a modest amount of new work,” DeWine said. “Members of the General Assembly, by requesting $1.2 billion dollars to fill the budget hole and
meet existing needs, let me assure you that I am taking a minimalist, conservative approach, with
this being the absolute bare minimum we need to protect our families and our economy.”
Despite his assertion that this is as low as the hike can be, a senior legislator from his own party had a different take. As previously reported, in a recent Facebook video interview, Ohio State Republican Speaker of the House Larry Householder asserted said:
Gov. DeWine has proposed an 18-cent increase on the gas tax and, in the House committee, we’ve knuckled down, looked through it, really worked on it. We think that that’s probably high. We believe the number is more around 10 cents to 12 cents as far as an increase that’s needed and we think that probably needs to be phased in over a period of three years.
Republicans should be concerned that two senior members of their own party have arrived at such starkly different numbers. To date, neither has publicly attempted to reconcile the figures. Prominent state Republican opinion leaders have also raised questions with DeWine’s assessment.
“As the debate on the gas tax continues, policymakers need to ensure that Ohioans do not pay more in taxes than they do today, and ensure that taxpayer dollars are stretched as far as possible. Any increase in the gas tax should be offset with a reduction in other taxes,” Research Fellow Greg R. Lawson at the Buckeye Institute, a prominent free-market think tank, stated.
Should DeWine consider tax offsets, an incremental introduction of the hike, or choosing to review the tax every few years (as opposed to pegging it to the Consumer Price Index), he could quell some of these concerns. His address, however, did not signal any compromise on the issue. As 2020 approaches, Republicans will be faced with some tough decisions on what the best direction is for the Buckeye State.
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