Compromise reached on Ohio gas tax

Bill heading to governor

Ohio’s next two-year transportation budget is headed to the governor’s desk for approval with compromises that will impact more than just gasoline and diesel-fuel consumers at the pump.

“My big takeaways that people need to know are that it’s taking effect on July 1, there’s no phase-in,” said Washington County Engineer Roger Wright. “And even with a little percentage change that they compromised on–it makes a difference.”

The Ohio House of Representatives and the Ohio Senate supported Substitute House Bill 62 Tuesday, with Southeast Ohio representation from Sen. Frank Hoagland, R-Mingo Junction, Jay Edwards, R-Nelsonville, and Don Jones, R-Freeport, in support of the bill’s changes including an additional 10.5-cent fuel tax on gasoline and an additional 19-cent tax on diesel fuel.

“It was a good compromise,” said Edwards. “The governor wanted 18 cents and we brought it down to 10.5 cents for gasoline and constitutionally the money has to be spent on roads and bridges. Roads and bridges are a big responsibility of government.”

The additional fuel tax revenues are to be split 55 percent to the Ohio Department of Transportation, with the remaining 45 percent sent to local governments.

“The existing (28-cent) tax will still be distributed at a 60/40 split,” explained Wright. “But adding that extra 5 percent to the local share is a little extra we get of the new.”

He said he’s still awaiting more in-depth estimates of the splits between townships and the county’s municipalities but is expecting between $1.3 million and $1.4 million to come from the additional tax.

Another addition that stayed in the budget from the last proposal was the new annual fees for alternative and hybrid vehicles–$200 and $100 respectively.

“It’s not perfect, but it’s a start in accounting for that rising change to more fuel efficiency to help pay for the roads they’re using just as much as traditional vehicles are,” said Wright. “Now it’s to the legislature and their lawyers to define what’s an alternative vehicle and what’s a hybrid.”

Edwards said the fees allow for a more even distribution of use and cost to maintain.

“If you look at surrounding states, like across the river in West Virginia they have a personal property tax on vehicles to help pay for roads which we don’t have,” he said.

But what the additional fees for fuel-efficient vehicles will do is require an accounting with county clerk of courts offices and with the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Lindsey Bohrer, assistant communications director for the Ohio Department of Public Safety, said Wednesday that while the state tracks the number of registered vehicles, it does not currently track if a vehicle is a hybrid or alternatively fueled.

Washington County Clerk of Courts Brenda Wolfe said Tuesday that her title office, currently located in the Frontier Shopping Center, would need to coordinate the accounting with the BMV office next door.

“Starting to track that though should help as we look forward and try to plan for how to keep up roads long-term as vehicles, in general, become more fuel efficient,” said Wright.

Additional provisions include funding public transit at $70 million, prohibiting skateboards from being attached to motor vehicles, creating an Emergency Snowfall Fund for communities that receive 18 or more inches in one event and removing the state’s front license plate requirement while creating the Road to Our Future Joint Legislative Committee to study state resources, alternatives to the gas tax and other transportation funding issues and study vehicle tracking technology available to replace vehicle identification through the front license plate.

At a glance:

• Ohio’s gasoline tax increases on July 1 from 28 cents per gallon to 38.5 cents per gallon.

• Diesel-fuel vehicle owners will pay 47 cents per gallon in state motor fuel tax beginning July 1.

• Additional provisions of Sub. House Bill 62 include:

• Funding public transit at $70 million.

• Prohibiting skateboards from being attached to motor vehicles.

• Creating an Emergency Snowfall Fund for communities that receive 18 or more inches in one event.

• Removing the state’s front license plate requirement.

• Creating the Road to Our Future Joint Legislative Committee to study study state resources, alternatives to the gas tax and other transportation funding issues and study vehicle tracking technology available to replace vehicle identification through the front license plate.

Source: Ohio Municipal League and the Ohio House of Representatives.

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