John Kasich seems to understand the stake that Northern Ohioans have in the Ohio Turnpike. The governor has proposed that if the turnpike is leased to a private entity, an appropriate amount of the proceeds would focus on the region.
On Tuesday, at a public hearing in Elyria on the leasing question, those in attendance made plain that their support will not be won easily. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported the thinking, a consensus for the status quo, the 241-mile highway collecting tolls and pouring the money into maintenance and improvement. Why mess with something that is working well?
The Kasich team talks about unlocking the true value of the turnpike. That amounts to a Wall Street way of saying a lease would deliver a lump sum that could be routed to roadway needs across the state. So, in any event, turnpike money would start flowing to other parts of Ohio.
Put aside that there are other effective methods for meeting transportation needs, a higher gas tax, for instance, amounting to a traditional user fee. The governor faces two hurdles in making his case. The first is to show that a lease is more about practicality than ideology, about more than a governor enthralled with privatizing public entities.
Second, Ohio has many problems and challenges. Is the turnpike really one of them? There’s a lesson from the Senate Bill 5 debacle in play: Don’t pick a fight unless it is necessary.