Local impact: Revised gas tax on transportation budget

JANELLE PATTERSON The Marietta Times Nick Arnold, 31, of Reno, hooks up his Chevrolet Volt at the free charging station at the Lafayette Branch of the Washington County Public Library Tuesday before heading to a movie.

With just weeks left to come to a decision on the state’s transportation budget, the Ohio Senate is now in discussions on funding for state, municipal, county and township roads.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine previously proposed a motor fuel tax increase of 18 cents per gallon, but the Ohio House of Representatives dropped that proposal in the substitute bill sent to the Ohio Senate last week.

Now at 10.7 cents additional tax per gallon, the House also added stipulations for shared use fees for electric and hybrid vehicles, plus a potential removal of the requirement for a front license plate.

Local government impact

Washington County Engineer Roger Wright said the proposed changes only have a marginal effect on what local governments would receive in funding.

“At the 18 cents gas tax Washington County was looking at $1.7 million in additional funding,” explained Wright. “Now with the 10.7 cents tax and the same 60/40 split, we’re looking at potentially $945,000. If they change the split of revenue between local governments and the Ohio Department of Transportation that could mean anywhere between $900,000 and $1 million for Washington County –which would mean we’d be able to pave about 12 additional miles of road.”

He explained with current funding the county receives through local sales taxes, state and federal funding, the county is only able to pave 200 of its 320 miles over a 20-year life span, and the added tax under consideration now by the Senate would still not meet the gap in need.

“Do we (Ohio’s county engineers) appreciate it, yes, but what was also removed in the house’s substitute bill was indexing for inflation, which in a few years will put us right back where we are now, eroding the buying power of those dollars,” he said.

Consumer Cost

At the 10.7 cents per gallon additional tax, an Ohio driver who travels 20,000 miles in a year would see an additional fuel cost over the year of between $60 and $95 depending on the size of their tank and average miles per gallon.

“ODOT put out a comparison for drivers of a Ford F150 and a Honda Accord back when the proposal was at 18 cents additional tax per gallon, and showed the added cost at the pump ranged between $1.50 and $2.75 per fill-up and saying if you travel 13,000 miles in a year you’d spend between $80 and $140 additional on the tax,” explained Wright. “But it would hit people who live in rural areas more because we drive around here much more to get between places.”

Assuming the average mileage for a southeastern Ohio driver in a year is 20,000, the formula for added cost in motor fuel ranges between $50 and $100 for traditional vehicles.

Ford F150 owners, for example, would see an additional spend of $1.71 at the pump each time they fill up, adding $92.44 to the cost of fuel in a year, while a Honda Accord owner would see $1.58 per visit to the pump with a $60.17 added fuel cost over the year.

And though both the Chevrolet Impala (18.5 gallon tank) and the Toyota Corolla (13.2 gallon tank) shake out to similar miles per full tank based on fuel efficiencies (462 miles), Impala owners would see an additional $1.97 per fill-up whereas Corolla owners would only see an additional $1.41 per fill up–a $24.38 difference if both owners drive 20,000 miles in a year and each fill up their tanks 43 times in Ohio over that year.

But the legislature did add one stipulation which Wright said is a step in the right direction.

“Say you have an electric vehicle, so you’re not filling up at the tank,” he explained. “You’re essentially spending as much as a person that bikes to work, but your vehicle weighs much more than a bike, and that weight impacts the lifespan of the road.”

The proposed “user fee” to be collected by the state during a drivers’ annual motor vehicle registration, which the Ohio Municipal League explained in an email last week would shake out to an annual $200 charge for electric vehicle owners and $100 for hybrid vehicle owners since the latter would also be filling up–though less frequently than traditional cars–at the pump and therefore also paying the motor fuel tax.

Chevy Volt owner Nick Arnold, 31, of Reno, said he understands the motivation, but it doesn’t sit well.

“I’m not really thrilled about it, but I get it,” he said. “I’m on board with some sort of parity, but it seems a little steep to me when you think about the weight ratio– the batteries are not much heavier than the fuel tank we’re not carrying,” he said. “The idea seems very reactive like you’re all of a sudden punishing people for being cost/energy efficient. People might have owned these for a decade or more and haven’t been treated any differently.”

He said the federal tax credit which draws drivers to purchase a hybrid or electric car only applies to the first purchaser, which didn’t apply when he bought the vehicle used.

“And the cost to put in a charger at my house, and the new breaker box is still very fresh,” he said.

Arnold said he expects that ultimately within the next decade gas stations will monetize quick charging stations in conjunction with gasoline and diesel fuel distribution and the novelty free chargers at places like the Lafayette Branch of the Washington County Public Library and the Armory will be phased out.

“This measure just seems like a band aid, but I’d want to know more of what goes into making it fair for every user of the road,” he said.

Law enforcement impact

Marietta Police Chief Rodney Hupp said the added consideration before the state senate right now to remove the requirement for a front license plate would make life more difficult for law enforcement.

“If the question is the additional cost to produce by the state, that’s passed on to the vehicle owners, if it’s because of the vanity of drivers wanting a sharper looking car–it flies in the face of reason why would we want to make identifying a car more difficult if that’s your vehicle that’s been stolen, or there’s an abduction situation,” he said.

States surrounding Ohio do not require front license plates, a problem which Hupp said local law enforcement already struggles with being on the West Virginia border.

“The utility of that license plate is significant when we’re given the description of a white car coming from West Virginia fleeing the scene, try counting the number of white sedans you see on the highway the next time you’re out,” he said. “You have a much better chance of identifying a car coming toward you with the identification in front than waiting to see it in your rearview mirror as it heads away from you.”

Supporters say front plates reduce fuel economy and add cost to drivers.

New plates in Ohio cost $34.50 for both plates and tags.

Compared cost at the pump:

• Ohio legislators are considering an amended state transportation budget with an increase in the motor fuel tax to 10.7 cents per gallon.

• Four of the most common vehicles found in Ohio compared at that increase tax could see the following additional expenses in a year:

• Ford F150:

• Has a 16-gallon tank and averages between city and highway mileage 23 miles per gallon, netting 368 miles per tank of gasoline.

• Driving 20,000 miles in a year would require 54 fill ups at a gas station over a year.

• Multiplying that 16-gallon tank by the additional 10.7 cent tax would cost an additional $1.71 per fill up, adding $92.44 to the cost of fuel in a year with the 20,000-mile assumption.

• Honda Accord:

• Has a 14.8-gallon tank and averages between city and highway mileage 35 miles per gallon, netting 518 miles per tank of gasoline.

• Driving 20,000 miles in a year would require 38 fill ups at a gas station over a year.

• Multiplying that 14.8-gallon tank by the additional 10.7 cent tax would cost an additional $1.58 per fill up, adding $60.17 to the cost of fuel in a year with the 20,000-mile assumption.

• Chevrolet Impala:

• Has an 18.5-gallon tank and averages between city and highway mileage 25 miles per gallon, netting 462.5 miles per tank of gasoline.

• Driving 20,000 miles in a year would require 43 fill ups at a gas station over a year.

• Multiplying that 18.5-gallon tank by the additional 10.7 cent tax would cost an additional $1.97 per fill up, adding $85.11 to the cost of fuel in a year with the 20,000-mile assumption.

• Toyota Corolla:

• Has a 13.2-gallon tank and averages between city and highway mileage 35 miles per gallon, netting 462 miles per tank of gasoline.

• Driving 20,000 miles in a year would require 43 fill ups at a gas station over a year.

• Multiplying that 13.2-gallon tank by the additional 10.7 cent tax would cost an additional $1.41 per fill up, adding $60.73 to the cost of fuel in a year with the 20,000-mile assumption.

• Honda Fit:

• Has a 10.6-gallon tank and averages between city and highway mileage 37 miles per gallon, netting 392.2 miles per tank of gasoline.

• Driving 20,000 miles in a year would require 51 fill ups at a gas station over a year.

• Multiplying that 10.6-gallon tank by the additional 10.7 cent tax would cost an additional $1.13 per fill up, adding $57.84 to the cost of fuel in a year with the 20,000-mile assumption.

* To find the impact on your wallet, start with the size of your vehicle’s tank, the average miles per gallon and the average number of miles traveled in a year. Then:

1. Multiply the size of the tank by the average miles per gallon to get the average miles per tank.

2. Divide the average miles traveled in a year by the average miles per tank to get the number of fill-ups at a gas station.

3. Multiply the tank size by 0.107 to find the additional cost per fill up.

4. Multiply the additional cost per fill up by the number of fill-ups at a gas station.

Source: Times research and the Washington County Engineer.

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