by J.D. Davidson
An Ohio state senator wants to lower the state’s gasoline tax to pre-2019 levels for the next five years, but a panel of state economists believe the plan is a bad idea.
Sen. Stephen Huffman, R-Tipp City, believes Ohioans could use the break, especially when the federal government has committed to giving the state 10 times more revenue over the same time span than the gas tax traditionally generates.
“The federal government is giving us 10 times more money than what we thought we would need for our infrastructure costs. Why don’t we give it back to Ohioans to spend themselves to generate more money in our economy?” Huffman said. “The gas tax is really a tax on the poor because they can least afford another $5 or $10 a month more in gas.”
The state raised the gasoline tax 10.5 cents a gallon in 2019 after Gov. Mike DeWine proposed an 18.5 cents increase. It also raised the tax 19.5 cents a gallon for diesel and created an additional registration fee for alternative-fuel vehicles.
Those increases, according to the state at the time, would generate $865 million annually for state and local governments.
Ohioans currently pay 38.5 cents a gallon in taxes on gasoline and 47 cents a gallon on diesel.
Huffman’s bill lowers the gasoline and diesel tax for five years to 28 cents a gallon and eliminates the extra fee on alternative fuel vehicles.
The additional 10.5 cents for gasoline and 19.5 cents for diesel is expected to produce around $1.5 billion annually, according to Huffman, while he said the recently passed federal infrastructure law would mean $2.3 billion annually for the state.
A recent survey of 32 Ohio economists, however, showed 26 of them disagreed that repealing the gas tax would create economic benefits, with most saying if the repeal leads to less money spent on infrastructure, it would reduce the quality of roads throughout the state.
“Repealing the tax would further reduce the quality of roads, create incentives to drive more, increasing congestion and pollution,” said A.J. Sumell, a professor at Youngstown State University. “The economic costs would far exceed the benefits in tax savings.”
Huffman has 15 Senate co-sponsors and is optimistic about the bill’s future.
“I think it’s going to come down to leadership and their thoughts going forward,” Huffman said.
Senate Bill 277, introduced in mid-December, is in the Senate Transportation Committee.
A spokesperson for DeWine said the governor is reviewing the bill.
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J.D. Davidson is a veteran journalist with more than 30 years of experience in newspapers in Ohio, Georgia, Alabama and Texas. He has served as a reporter, editor, managing editor and publisher. He is a regional editor for The Center Square.