The Ohio Legislature failed to agree on a transportation budget before its midnight deadline Sunday. While several items were agreed to, a comprise hasn’t yet been reached on the gas tax.
As The Ohio Star reported, the Ohio House and Gov. Mike DeWine settled on an 11-cent gas-tax increase, seven cents down from what DeWine initially proposed.
“I’m pleased that we have reached an agreement with the Speaker of the House on the transportation budget that will enable the Ohio Department of Transportation to improve and maintain safer roads, bridges, highways, and intersections across Ohio. I am hopeful that the Senate agrees to this plan as well,” DeWine said in a statement after the agreement was announced.
But the Ohio Senate is opposed to the 11-cent figure, and previously passed a bill that would institute a six-cent hike. A joint conference committee composed of six members has been meeting since Wednesday, but failed to reach an agreement.
Senate President Larry Obhof (R-Medina) has been relatively quiet on the matter, but spoke with reporters Friday about the negotiations.
“We will continue conversations and will all be back on Monday or Tuesday of next week. So I think it’s just a matter of, you know, putting pen to paper, hashing out whatever remaining things need to be agreed on,” he said, according to Cleveland.com.
“I think that when you are asking the taxpayers for more of their money, it is important that you only take as much as necessary,” Obhof added. “That people, frankly, ought to be able to pay their own bills before they pay the government’s.”
According to reports, the highest the Senate has been willing to go thus far has been 8.5 cents, up from its initial six-cent number.
Two polls from last week show that most Ohioan oppose DeWine’s 18-cent gas-tax increase. The Buckeye Institute found that 65 percent of Ohioans are opposed to the increase, while Baldwin Wallace University found that 55 percent are either opposed or “strongly” opposed.
The conference committee has agreed to a number of items for its transportation budget, such as $70 million annually for public transit. Obhof said it’s possible that an interim budget could be passed while negotiations continue.
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo “Larry Obhof” by Larry Obhof.