Facing looming road budget crisis, DeWine transportation commission recommends raising Ohio gas tax

Posted at 4:48 PM, Feb 15, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-15 17:13:26-05

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A special advisory committee convened this month by Gov. Mike DeWine to assess Ohio's transportation infrastructure needs has recommended that the state's General Assembly should increase its tax on gasoline.

In its final 89-page report, issued Friday, the Advisory Committee on Transportation Infrastructure said, "(T)he only funding mechanism that generated broad consensus was an increase in the motor fuel user tax."

The committee held two hearings last week to assess options for plugging a looming $1 billion budget shortfall for major road projects starting next year, spanning the next decade.

The report did not indicate how the state legislature should implement the tax increase, whether through a flat rate increase, through indexing to inflation or both.

Ohio's gas tax rate currently sits at approximately 28 cents per gallon, lower than all of its neighbors except Kentucky. The General Assembly's last increase to the motor fuel tax occurred in 2003 but did not include a provision to index the gas tax to inflation.

The budget gap threatens progress on a number of multi-million-dollar construction projects across the state, as well as some maintenance funding for road and highway upkeep. Locally, completing the 10-year Millcreek Expressway Project on Interstate 75 and the Western Hills Viaduct, among others, are in jeopardy if the legislature cannot agree on a new way to fund road projects.

In the report, Ohio Department of Transportation director Jack Marchbanks wrote: "We are facing a future where we will clearly not be able to maintain the quality of the system we have, let alone improve upon it. And, to be blunt, this will endanger the safety of every single person who travels Ohio's transportation network.

"We are looking over the edge of a fiscal cliff."

Marchbanks went on to explain how inflation has cut the power of a consumer dollar at the pump in half over the last 15 years, "and essentially no additional revenues have been added."