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Politics


Ohio Sens. Portman and Brown says road funding must continue
But they differ on questions of national and state control
by WKSU's M.L. SCHULTZE


Web Editor
M.L. Schultze
 
Portman says states already have a big responsibility for the nation's roads; Brown says a national road system is a must.
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In The Region:

Both of Ohio’s U.S. senators says the Highway Trust Fund needs to be reauthorized. But WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports they’re expected to differ on some of the particulars.

LISTEN: Portman and Brown on the highway debate

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The Congressional Budget Office is estimating that the trust fund needs about $8 billion in additional revenues to meet all its obligations this year. And the Senate Finance Committee is expected to get into a deep debate early next month.

Some of the debate was previewed in press calls with Ohio’s two senators.

Republican Rob Portman is suggesting road projects would be less expensive if states got more control over more money and projects.

“I think Ohio should be able to keep the gas tax that’s collected in Ohio and spend it in Ohio. From the numbers that I’ve been able to develop from the cost of federal projects vs state projects, and the amount of bureaucracy and the cost that’s taken out when it comes to Washington, I think it would just about solve the short-term problem and even the long-term problem because we probably spend 20 to 25 percent more by having it run through Washington.”

Portman says he would not jeopardize the nation’s interstate highway system.

But Democrat Sherrod Brown says roads are a key part of the nation’s strength.

“We built the interstate highway system as a nation, not as individual states or individual counties. There are certain responsibilities the federal government has; certainly national defense, but one of them is a highway system. While most of it’s maintained by the states -- some of it’s constructed by the states, all of it has state dollars in it --  turning it over to the states you’ll just see serious problems.”

 

Brown says he supports a proposal by Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden to raise heavy vehicle use taxes to shore up the fund. He’s also introduced a bill to try to ensure full-time workers are not misclassified as independent contractors, saying that would increase payroll taxes some employers are now ducking. 

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