COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio Senate Transportation, Commerce, and Workforce Committee began hearing testimonies Monday on Gov. Mike DeWine’s demand for an 18-cent gas-tax increase.
The chairman of that committee, Sen. Rob McColley (R-01) (pictured, left), however, made it clear that he and his fellow Senate Republicans oppose the 18-cent figure, and even suggested an income-tax cut to offset a gas-tax increase.
But Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) Director Jack Marchbanks (pictured, right) said Monday during his testimony that anything less than 18-cents wouldn’t cut it, and claimed that the smaller gas-tax increase of 10.7-cents passed in the House’s version of the transportation budget last week “falls far short of Ohio’s real need.”
“As you may recall, due to flat revenues, highway construction inflation, and mounting debt payments, ODOT is in jeopardy of being unable to fulfill its mission to maintain the state’s most valuable physical asset: our state highway system. The credit cards are maxed out and the long-term health of Ohio’s transportation system is now at stake,” Marchbanks said.
He argued that an 18-cent increase is necessary because the “state has avoided making the difficult decision to find a long-term solution to our transportation revenue shortfall for more than a decade.”
“Had this user fee been raised in accordance with the state’s needs a decade ago, today’s ask would be much smaller. Had it been scheduled to increased in a manner that kept up with real conditions, our shortfall would be significantly less. Had we done more than study this issue, we might not have been asking for anything at all,” Marchbanks continued.
Specifically, he said ODOT requires “about $2.84 billion for maintenance and operations” in fiscal year 2020 alone, but the House version of the transportation budget (HB 62) would produce a “shortfall of about $100 million for next year.”
“The house-passed version of this budget is a status quo budget. This does not even cover our basic maintenance needs, and there is essentially no additional revenue to make any improvements of any kind in any place,” he went on.
The Senate Transportation, Commerce, and Workforce Committee will continue hearing testimonies Tuesday and Wednesday, but have a Thursday deadline to submit a new version of the bill. McColley said he hopes the bill will be taken up for a vote by the full Senate by next week.
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