COLUMBUS — Local governments would get a bigger slice of the new state gas tax under the latest changes to the state transportation budget, which is expected to go for a full House vote Thursday.
The House Finance Committee voted 30-3 on Wednesday night for the two-year, $7.9 billion budget that focuses on road and bridge funding. It includes a 10.7-cent-per-gallon increase in the state gas tax, and a 20-cent increase in the tax on diesel fuel. Both would be phased in over three years, starting Oct. 1.
Of the current 28-cent gas tax, 60 percent goes to the state and 40 percent is divided among counties, cities and townships. Under the latest bill, revenue from the tax increase would split 55 percent state, 45 percent local.
Rep. Scott Oelslager, R-Canton, chairman of the Finance Committee, said the change means $17 million more for counties over two years.
The House also would spend $100 million per year on public transit, far more than the $40 million proposed by Gov. Mike DeWine.
The House plan would raise significantly less than the 18-cent gas tax increase that DeWine wanted. House Speaker Larry Householder, R-Glenford, said the amount of the tax increases were chosen to hit a revenue target.
“We looked at traditionally what the Department of Transportation has spent since 2014, and it produced a certain amount of revenue that members felt comfortable with,” he said.
DeWine on Wednesday warned against the House’s reduction to his gas tax proposal, saying it will leave needed repairs undone and put lives at risk. He again called his plan the “bare minimum.”
"Anything less than that we’re not going to be doing enough," he said.
Ohio’s gas tax has not increased since 2005, and the $1.5 billion raised in 2013 by bonding against future turnpike tolls has been used up..
DeWine’s proposed gas tax increase would have raised nearly $2.5 billion in road and bridge money over the next two years, while the House plan would raise an additional $930 million.
Ohio’s tax rate for gasoline and diesel has been the same since at least 1993, but the House plan would bring the gas tax to 38.7 cents, compared to 48 cents for diesel. Householder said that relates to the damage large trucks do to Ohio’s roads.
“The fact is, it’s known that heavy trucks are what cause damage to our roads,” he said. “They really don’t attribute any damage to passenger cars.”
The House transportation budget also includes a handful of other fee increases.
The House would charge an additional $200 registration fee for electric vehicles and $100 for hybrids, charged each time a vehicle is registered, or the registration is renewed. Half of the estimated $26.6 million in revenue would got to local governments.
The plan increases the registrar fee from $3.50 to $5. It also permits cities and townships to levy an additional $5 annual license plate tax per vehicle.
So far, Senate Republican leaders are declining to talk about the House gas tax plan.
“We are going to continue to conduct our own analysis of where we think the number should be,” said Sen. Rob McColley, R-Napoleon, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. “And the Senate president has been pretty consistent in saying that he feels that if we are going to have a gas tax increase we’re going to need corresponding tax decreases on the other side of the ledger.”
In addition to taxes and fees, the House plan further restricts the use of traffic cameras by requiring cities to file all camera-related cases in municipal court, rather than using an administrative hearing. It also would take away financial incentive to use the cameras by subtracting fine revenue from a city’s share of state local government funds.
It eliminates the requirement for a front license plate.
Dispatch reporter Catherine Candisky contributed to this story.