COLUMBUS — The Ohio Senate on Thursday voted in favor of a proposal to increase the state’s gas tax by 6 cents a gallon, down from the House’s planned increase of 10.7 cents a gallon and well below the governor’s proposed 18-cents a gallon to maintain roads and bridges.
The Senate’s transportation committee unveiled its tax plan Thursday for an increase of 6 cents a gallon for gas and for diesel fuel in a substitute version of Ohio’s transportation budget that passed the committee 6-5. The full Senate voted 24-to-6 later in the day to approve the bill. It now heads back to the House for almost certain rejection, which would call for a House-Senate conference committee to convene for an attempt at a compromise.
Republican Gov. Mike DeWine proposes raising Ohio’s current tax of 28 cents per gallon on gas by 18 cents beginning July 1, and adjusting it annually for inflation. The tax on diesel fuel under his plan also would go up by 18 cents.
The House proposes an increase of 10.7 cents a gallon over three years beginning Oct. 1. The House proposal would increase the current 28-cents-per-gallon diesel-fuel tax by 20 cents a gallon, with that increase also phased in over a three-year period.
The House plan, which would not index the increase to inflation, would raise about $872 million per year, compared with about $1.2 billion from DeWine’s plan. The Senate proposal, which also does not set the tax to automatically rise with inflation, would raise about $400 million per year.
DeWine, who has already said that the increase proposed by the House wasn’t enough, said again Wednesday that his proposal was the “bare minimum” to keep up with needed repairs of poorly rated bridges, dangerous intersections and some new construction. A message seeking comment on Thursday’s vote was left with a spokesman for DeWine.
House GOP members had indicated their plan would lessen the impact of a tax increase on consumers while still meeting road-maintenance needs. Republican Rep. Scott Oelslager, chairman of the House Finance Committee, has described the House plan as a “more equitable” distribution of the tax burden.
Senate Transportation Chairman Rob McColley voted against the Senate version Thursday because it doesn’t contain a corresponding tax cut to off-set the 6-cent increase. McColley said, however, that he was comfortable after an “extensive analysis” that the 6-cent proposal is enough to fund existing road maintenance with some extra construction on top.
“Our policy, number one, should be taking care of existing roads and bridges, and this budget definitely does that,” said McColley, a Republican from Napoleon in northwestern Ohio.
The Senate committee’s proposed transportation budget also would reinstate the requirement for Ohioans to have both front and back license plates on their vehicles. The House has proposed eliminating the front license.