Ohio drivers will begin paying more at the pump in July, and not everyone is happy with the decision.
Gov. Mike DeWine signed legislation April 3 to increase the state gas tax by 10.5 cents per gallon, and an additional 19 cents per gallon for diesel fuel. He originally proposed an 18-cent increase for standard gas but was encouraged by state Republicans to lower that amount.
The state House of Representatives approved DeWine’s fuel tax, part of the governor’s two-year transportation budget, with a vote of 70-27; the Senate followed with a 22-10 vote.
The increase will add $865 million annually in gas tax revenue for the purpose of repairing state roads and bridges.The total will be divided at $524 million for state repairs and $381 million for local jobs.
The gas tax hike places Ohio within the top 10 highest rates in the nation.
DeWine spokesperson Dan Tierney said the gas tax increase was necessary due to a “structural” deficit in the state budget. He said Ohio has a $390 million debt payment attached to ongoing improvements to its turnpike.
“The way the governor would put it, the credit cards were maxed out,” Tierney said.
A commission put together by DeWine recommended an increase in the motor vehicle tax, calling it a reliable resource. Tierney said an approximately $700 million surplus in the state’s general revenue fund isn’t enough to meet the need. He said because the amount of state revenue generated for the remainder of the year is uncertain, using the surplus for infrastructure repair would be imprudent.
“The governor is looking at the proposal from about 10 years out. The general revenue surplus could only be used once,” he said.
In a statement, District 1 Senator Rob McColley (R-Napoleon) said he’s been consistent in his view that any tax increases must be offset by tax cuts so Ohioans don’t pay more for essential government services.
“Largely, the people of the first Senate district agree, and I promised those constituents that I would only support a gas tax increase if there were offsetting tax cuts,” the statement said. “I believe in the importance of doing what we told our constituents we would do, which is why I voted ‘no’ on the transportation budget.”
District 47 State Representative Derek Merrin (R-Monclova Twp.) also voted against the budget.
“I don’t want to increase the overall tax burden on Ohioans,” he said. “I would like to see a portion of the general revenue fund supplement road improvements and infrastructure.”
Merrin said DeWine proposed the increase “because the general consensus was they want a gas tax to solely pay for that.”
District 81 State Representative James Hoops (R-Napoleon) and District 2 Senator Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green) voted in favor of the budget.
According to District 2 Senator Theresa Gavarone (R-Bowling Green), the governor’s transportation budget not only invests strongly in the state’s infrastructure, it improves transparency and accountability, and delivers tax relief to low-income Ohioans.
She said her vote for the gas tax increase came after she and District 89 State Representative Steve Arndt (R-Port Clinton) worked to include budget language allowing for state tourism areas to apply for funds to maintain infrastructure leading there.
Gavarone said the transportation budget, including the gas tax, wasn’t an option.
“I chose to improve our infrastructure, and thanks to that decision northwest Ohio is an even more attractive place for job creators to do business, and I am looking forward to the increased economic growth that will come to our region,” she said.
“I also received input from elected officials, community leaders and constituents throughout the district. The overwhelming response was that voting for the transportation budget, while not a perfect bill, was in the best interest of my constituents.”
Reach David J. Coehrs at 419-335-2010.