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Debate over Ohio gas-tax increase heads to joint committee

Posted at 10:06 PM, Mar 27, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-27 22:06:17-04

COLUMBUS — The debate over proposed increases in Ohio’s gas tax headed to a joint House and Senate committee Wednesday to resolve the two chambers’ differences, both of which fall far below what Gov. Mike DeWine has proposed.

The House has proposed increases of 10.7 cents a gallon for gas and 20 cents a gallon for diesel fuel to maintain the state’s roads and bridges. The Senate wants to increase the current tax of 28 cents a gallon for gas and diesel by only six cents.

DeWine, a Republican, wants an increase of 18 cents per gallon, with annual adjustments for inflation, and has said repeatedly that neither legislative plan goes far enough. But the first-term governor also hasn’t said what he’ll do if a bill hits his desk that ignores his request.

The joint committee was to be formally convened later Wednesday after both chambers rejected the other’s version. The committee, though bipartisan, will be controlled by Republicans. It was expected to begin work later Wednesday.

GOP House Speaker Larry Householder said the two sides remain “a long ways apart,” but said he hoped to resolve the debate by Thursday.

“We feel like the House plan is one that provides the necessary resources,” Householder said Wednesday. “It may need some tweaking possibly but we are open to discussions about that.”

The Senate will “let the process run its course,” said GOP Senate President Larry Obhof, who has questioned whether the road repair need is as dire as the governor has warned.

“We have a good working relationship with the administration and the House, and I’ll leave it at that,” Obhof said Wednesday.

On Tuesday, a bipartisan group of mayors from Ohio’s largest cities endorsed DeWine’s 18-cents-per-gallon increase proposal, urging lawmakers to “get close” to the governor’s number.

RELATED: Ohio Senate proposes 6-cent increase to state gas tax