Governor Mike DeWine aggressively condemned his fellow Republicans Monday for not supporting his gas tax increase in a candid interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer Editorial Board.
During the interview, he accused them of outright endangering the safety of Ohioans statewide by not supporting his plan.
DeWine, in one of his first major bills proposed to Ohio legislature, chose to introduce House Bill 62 (HB 62), to the 2020-2021 transportation budget. Starting off his tenure as a Republican Governor with a tax increase was inevitably going to give many Republicans pause. However, this initial hesitation was greatly compounded by the fact that there are no tax offsets to the hike. In addition, the tax increase will not be gradually phased in over several years, as similar tax increases often are, but will into effect immediately. Lastly, the tax will be indefinitely pegged to the Consumer Price Index which could potentially see the tax increase every year. This is a tough pill to swallow for many Ohio Republican legislators.
Conversely, DeWine is accurate when he notes the dire state of roads and bridges in Ohio. As previously reported:
A 2018 study gave the state’s infrastructure an “A-” while the national state average came in at a “D+.” However, there are still an estimated, 1,653 bridges that are classified as “structurally deficient,” according to the FHWA National Bridge Inventory. In addition, 30% of all roads are in “poor or mediocre condition.” Compounding this issue, the Ohio Department of Transportation will have its budget for 2020/21 decrease to $1.7 billion, a 30% drop from 2014. This budget will leave almost nothing for new infrastructure projects.
As one of this first executive actions, the new governor appointed a task force specifically aimed at assessing and creating solutions to the critical infrastructure needs. This panel’s formation was applauded by the Buckeye Institute, an Ohio free-market think tank. After a short period of deliberation, though several ideas were proposed, the only broadly agreed upon solution was to raise the gas tax.
Seemingly conceding that some form of tax increase was inescapable, the Ohio State House of Representative is willing to increase taxes, however, they insist that it be slashed to 10.7 cents, be phased in over three years, and not be pegged to the CPI. DeWine has refused to concede on any of these terms, underscoring the point in his first State of the State Address by asserting he is “…taking a minimalist, conservative approach, with this being the absolute bare minimum we need to protect our families and our economy.” He maintains that there is absolutely no “wiggle room” on any of his numbers, stating:
If they pass the House bill, we’re going to end up with the worst of all worlds…We’re going to have passed a tax on the people of the state of Ohio and they’re going to look up in a year or two and say, ‘Wait a minute. I thought these roads were supposed to get better. They look to me like they’re getting worse.’
Republicans like State Representative John Becker have stated that they would be willing to support DeWine’s original plan on the condition that it be offset with “corresponding income tax, cap tax, or some other tax reduction to compensate for it so that way it’s revenue neutral.” DeWine has not yet stated whether or not he would accept this compromise.
The state has until the end of the month to pass a budget that would go into effect this year.
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