The Ohio Department of Transportation says it’s running out of cash to fund new projects while still maintaining current roads. The only way out, the director says, is a substantial increase to the state’s gas tax.
Lawmakers heard testimony Thursday morning on a proposal to increase the state’s gas tax by 64 percent, from 28 cents per gallon to 46 cents per gallon.
Right now, Ohio’s gas tax is the lowest among states in our region, and it hasn’t been touched since 2005. Those facts fly in the face of the fact that Ohio’s highway system is the fourth largest in the country. State leaders say this tax hike isn’t something they want to do, it’s something they have to do.
More of our roads and bridges would inevitably slip into a dangerous state of disrepair, putting the safety of Ohio’s drivers at risk, said the director of ODOT.
Long a benefit for drivers, the state’s low gas tax will come at the cost of future road projects and maintenance of existing ones, the director says. The decision to introduce an increase to the gas tax comes as ODOT has cut $700 million in recent years, state officials said.
If approved, raising the user tax by 18 cents per gallon would generate more than $1 billion in the first year. An increase, and its impact, drivers said, appears inevitable.
“I think we need all the money we can get to go into the roads,” one local driver said. “It’s just how they go about getting it.”
Another driver said they “commute to work, I’m 35 minutes [away] or so. Any time the gas prices go up, that’s going to affect some decisions there.”
The average driver who logs 15,000 miles at 30 miles per gallon would pay close to $100 more per year.
That money wouldn’t just go to the state. Cities and counties would get a cut too, freeing up more funding to fix the friendly neighborhood pothole.
Proponents point out paying the gas tax is less than paying for a new tire.
“Any time a tax is brought up as an issue, I’m always thinking about what it’s supposed to fund,” a local commuter said. “If it is something I can use or would make life easier for us day to day, I definitely want to support that. You just figure out how to budget elsewhere.”
But, another driver asked, “What’s going to happen if all of the sudden if the forces that make gas go higher and we’re stuck with the old days of $4 a gallon again?”
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Article Courtesy of WEWS News 5 Cleveland
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