Negotiations over Ohio gas tax increase delayed over weekend

Posted at 8:08 AM, Mar 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-30 08:08:49-04

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The state gas tax would rise 11 cents under a deal worked out by Gov. Mike DeWine and House Speaker Larry Householder to fix deteriorating roads and bridges, but the next step in negotiations is to bring Senate Republicans on board.

Those negotiations appeared stalemated Friday after the joint Senate-House committee hashing out a compromise adjourned until Monday without any meetings earlier in the day.

DeWine and Householder, both Republicans, announced their deal Thursday under which the diesel fuel tax would also rise by 20 cents per gallon.

But Senate lawmakers weren't in agreement yet.

"We're not comfortable with those numbers," Sen. Matt Dolan, a Republican from Chagrin Falls in northeastern Ohio, said Thursday.

The original Senate plan increased the current tax of 28 cents a gallon for gas and diesel by only 6 cents. Householder said the current Senate proposal involves an 8.5 cents-per-gallon gasoline increase and a 13 cents-per-gallon increase on diesel.

Householder put pressure on Senate lawmakers to act, saying that making tough decisions comes with the job.

"The fact is, this is the job we were hired to do," Householder said Thursday. "When you come here, you've got to put on your big-boy pants, you've got to pull your binky out of your mouth and you've got to make tough decisions."

DeWine called the 11-cent compromise a way to "improve and maintain" safer roads and bridges across Ohio.

Ohio hasn't increased its state gas tax since 2005.

The House and Senate, in the meantime, have agreed on a figure that would boost public transportation funding, adding $70 million a year, up from the current $33 million.

GOP Senate President Larry Obhof wouldn't comment on the current Senate gas tax proposal but acknowledged it represented the most significant part of the budget debate.

"We're all focused on the same thing_making sure we have strong infrastructure, good roads, that we're fixing our bridges, and that we're protecting the taxpayers," Obhof said.