ohio Panel OKs gas, diesel tax

Proposed increase would help fund road, bridge fixes

Staff/wire report


A committee of the Ohio House and Senate has approved a proposal to increase the state tax on gas by 10.5 cents a gallon and the tax on diesel fuel by 19 cents to maintain deteriorating roads and bridges.

The joint conference committee approved the increases Tuesday. The compromises on the tax increases in the state transportation budget were expected to be approved by the full House and Senate. Both new tax rates would start July 1.

The proposed increases would mean Ohioans would pay a state tax rate of 38.5 cents per gallon on gas and 47 cents a gallon on diesel fuel.

The conference report on the transportation budget approved Tuesday also allows for the removal of front license plates starting July 1, 2020.

Mahoning County Engineer Pat Ginnetti said the gas tax has not changed in nearly 15 years. Though even Gov. Mike DeWine’s initial proposal of an 18-cent increase wouldn’t have solved his department’s funding woes, “every little bit helps and counts,” he said.

Under DeWine’s proposal, Mahoning County would have received about $1.6 million more – a total about $4.2 million – from state gas tax revenues, which is distributed equally among all Ohio’s 88 counties.

“I’m in a spot where our budget is solely derived from gas and license plates [tax revenues],” he said. “DeWine’s approach of 18 cents had a committee that analyzed the needs and came up with 18 cents, which I think was not overboard but also tried not to be too much of a burden on the users.”

Ginnetti said he’s not sure if the proposed 19-cent increase on the diesel tax would be enough to be impactful. Though heavier vehicles cause roads to deteriorate faster, the state’s fuel taxes are collected at the pump, which may or may not be in the county.

With the gas tax hike and a proposed new $5 county license-plate fee awaiting approval from commissioners, the county engineer could receive an added more than $2 million per year for roads, which could go to fix about 20 additional miles of road each year, Ginnetti said.

“It’s not going to fix everything, but it’s going to fix a lot more,” he said.

State officials, however, have not calculated just how much more the counties are getting.

Boardman Township Administrator Jason Loree estimated it costs about $100,000 to repair one mile of road in the township, which maintains more than 140 residential miles. The township stood to get about $330,000 more from the gas tax under an 18-cent increase, more than double what it gets now.

He said officials are also overlooking recycled materials now used in road repair mix which leaves road bases less durable than those fixed with environmentally friendly mixes with binders and emulsifiers.

“Over time, that’s going to shift. Your bases may need to be redone,” Loree said. “That adds exponential cost to repaving a street or roadway. You have to dig down even further.

“No one wants to address the issue for what it really is – a major infrastructure problem. And it’s not just an Ohio problem, it’s a nationwide problem.”

Austintown Administrator Mike Dockry said some township roads haven’t been touched since the 1970s or 1980s. The township would have received about $286,000 more per year from DeWine’s proposed gas tax, equating to at least an extra two miles of road repair each year.

He said township officials plan to put about $400,000 from the general fund into the roads this year.