by J.D. Davidson
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine wants state lawmakers to put the brakes on lowering the state gas tax, saying infrastructure upgrades are needed around the state and those projects create jobs.
A state senator pushing to scale back the tax to pre-2019 levels for at least five years believes now is the right time, however.
DeWine told Gongwer News Service infrastructure needs throughout the state are too important to reduce the tax and state spending on road projects, specifically citing the proposed overhaul of the Brent Spence Bridge, which connects Cincinnati to northern Kentucky.
“Infrastructure is vitally important to the economic development of the state and the creation of jobs,” DeWine told Gongwer News Service.
Sen. Stephen Huffman, R-Tipp City, believes the billions of dollars coming to the state from the recently passed federal infrastructure law more than offset the money collected from higher taxes imposed in 2019.
“With gas prices soaring back above $3 per gallon, combined with the Biden administration’s failing energy policy, many hard-working Ohio moms and dads pray that their last quarter tank gets them to pay day,” Huffman said. “Now more than ever, we need to repeal the gas tax increase passed in the last transportation budget since there is ample federal funding taking its place.”
The state raised the gasoline tax 10.5 cents a gallon in 2019 after DeWine proposed an 18.5 cents increase. It also raised the tax 19.5 cents a gallon for diesel and created an additional registration fee for alternative-fuel vehicles.
Those increases, according to the state at the time, would generate $865 million annually for state and local governments.
Ohioans currently pay 38.5 cents a gallon in taxes on gasoline and 47 cents a gallon on diesel.
Huffman’s bill lowers the gasoline and diesel tax for five years to 28 cents a gallon and eliminates the extra fee on alternative fuel vehicles.
The additional 10.5 cents for gasoline and 19.5 cents for diesel is expected to produce around $1.5 billion annually, according to Huffman, while he said the recently passed federal infrastructure law would mean $2.3 billion annually for the state.
“The federal government is giving us 10 times more money than what we thought we would need for our infrastructure costs. Why don’t we give it back to Ohioans to spend themselves to generate more money in our economy?” Huffman said. “The gas tax is really a tax on the poor because they can least afford another $5 or $10 a month more in gas.”
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J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. He is a regional editor for The Center Square.