Late Tuesday night, a joint legislative committee of the Ohio House and Senate reached a compromise on the controversial and divisive gas-tax hike. The gas tax will increase by 10.5 cents per gallon, and 19 cents per gallon for diesel fuel. While this falls short of Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s original hopes, it’s passage would still be a victory for the first-term governor.
As previously reported:
House Bill 62 (HB 62), the 2020-21 Ohio Transportation Budget, the first major bill proposed of newly-elected Ohio Republican Governor Mike DeWine’s tenure, called for an 18 cent gas tax increase. It would go into effect immediately and carry no tax offsets.
The Ohio House of Representatives revised the proposal to 10.7 cents and ordered it to be phased in over three years. Most recently, the Ohio Senate dropped the tax rate even lower to six cents. None of the proposals carry a complete tax offset. In this joint session, the legislators hope to reconcile differences, yet DeWine has maintained from day one that his 18 cent proposal is ‘a minimalist, conservative approach, with this being the absolute bare minimum we need to protect our families and our economy.’
The new tax will generate just over $850 million more per year for road and bridge projects. Forty-five percent of these funds will go to local governments for their own various repair projects. In an effort to ensure that electric and hybrid cars bear their share of the responsibility for raising these funds, fees have been included for alternative vehicles at $200, and $100 for hybrid vehicles
While the bill still carries no tax offsets for the new revenues, some remain hopeful that these offsets will make it into Ohio’s biennial budget.
“More spending and tax cuts need to be done to relieve the burden on Ohio families—the majority of whom have demanded that any gas tax increase be offset by other spending and tax cuts,” Buckeye Institute President Robert Alt said in a statement. “The Buckeye Institute stands ready to work with the DeWine Administration and Ohio’s House and Senate to identify specific spending and tax cuts to help offset the impact this gas tax increase will have on Ohioans at the pump—especially those least able to afford it….they have a great opportunity to demonstrate that we can not only make needed infrastructure investments in roads, highways, and bridges, but we can also come together to save taxpayers money in other areas.”
As the bill headed to DeWine’s desk for signing, reactions ranged from relieved to concerned.
“This was a job that no one relished. This was something that, frankly, had to be done if this state is going to move forward and we were going to keep our families safe,” DeWine said at a press conference following the bill’s passage.
Republican House Speaker Larry Householder called the bill “a good compromise.”
As the price of oil continues to increase, any further delay for the bill could have been disastrous for its passage. However, once it is signed, the official first major law passed by the Republican-controlled state government will be a significant tax hike, with no offsets.
The bill passed the House in a vote of 70-27, and the Senate in a vote of 22-10.
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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio Star. Send tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.