ODOT Director Responds To House Lawmakers’ Cut To Gas Tax Increase Proposal

Mar 6, 2019

The director of the Ohio Department of Transportation isn’t pleased with the decision by the House Finance Committee to cut Gov. Mike DeWine’s proposed 18 cent gas tax increase down to just under 11 cents. But he’s holding out hope, even though that plan is likely to be on the House floor Thursday.

ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks said the vote to cut the increase on gasoline from 18 cents to 10.7 cents and to make the increase on diesel fuel at 20 cents is disappointing.

“The package right now is inadequate for our needs. What we’re talking about are not only fewer dollars for safety, but we will be very stressed and put upon to maintain our system with the package as is," Marchbanks said.

The House Finance Committee also voted remove the index to inflation, meaning the gas tax can’t increase as costs do, and to gradually implement the tax hike. And Marchbanks said that’s a big problem.

“Because it was phased over three years, we end up with a shortfall, actually, in our first year of tens of millions of dollars, just to maintain what we have," Marchbanks said.

But Marchbanks and Gov. Mike DeWine are saying that this is a process. Marchbanks said the administration will continue to give lawmakers the facts about the need for the full hike, which would generate $1.2 billion. 

The proposal the House Finance Committee approved would raise $872 million, split 60-40 with local governments. The plan also directs more federal funds to public transit, taking it from $40 million to $70 million. And it addresses the concerns of people regarding cars that don’t use much gas to set registration fees for electric vehicles at $200, and hybrids $100.

Marchbanks said the billion dollar cut in ODOT’s budget ask will really hurt, and he put the brakes on the idea that the brunt of that pain will be borne by the road construction industry, which critics have suggested may be driving this gas tax hike.

“Our core duty is to take care of what we have, to make it safer, to keep people mobile and of course the heavy highway construction industry is our partner in that. But they don’t tell us what to do. We determine what we want to do," Marchbanks said.

Even at 18 cents, Ohio’s gas tax increase was minor compared to a proposal by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to hike that state’s per gallon tax by 45 cents. Marchbanks said “Michigan is a cautionary tale”, and if the revenue doesn’t come in now, it’ll have to come in later.