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Ohio's Public Transit Systems Continue to Look for a $238 Million Solution

Passengers boarding a SARTA bus in Canton

Ohio lawmakers are still trying to come up with a new plan to replace hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue that public transit agencies and counties lost in the last state budget. And as WKSU’s M.L. Schultze reports the money will be running out earlier than anticipated.

Until last year, Ohio’s 88 counties and eight mass transit agencies collected more than $200 million a year from a sales tax on Medicaid managed-care organizations.

But the federal government said that was no longer allowed, and Gov. John Kasich vetoed an attempt to renew the tax in the last state budget. Lawmakers considered replacing it with a tax on drilling or on all managed-care organizations, but those proposals went nowhere. And short term proposals – dependent in part on the state finishing the fiscal year in June with a healthy bottom line – would make up less than half the amount lost.

Jose Feliciano Jr. is external affairs manager for Cuyahoga County’s RTA.

“The reality is, it’s a $238 million hole. So everything they do is incredibly appreciated. However, we’re just trying to put a Band Aid on a gunshot.”

The state has allotted $207 million for this fiscal year, but Feliciano says that money is running out three months earlier than anticipated. 

M.L. Schultze came to WKSU as news director in July 2007 after 25 years at The Repository in Canton, where she was managing editor for nearly a decade. She’s now the digital editor and an award-winning reporter and analyst who has appeared on NPR, Here and Now and the TakeAway, as well as being a regular panelist on Ideas, the WVIZ public television's reporter roundtable.