© 2021 WKSU
Public Radio News for Northeast Ohio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations
Government & Politics

ODOT Director Says Proposed Cut Makes Gas Tax Hike 'Inadequate'

photo of Jack Marchbanks
ODOT Director Jack Marchbanks speaks to the House Finance Committee on Feb. 21, 2019.

The director of the Ohio Department of Transportation is not 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. 

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

“The package right now is inadequate for our needs," he said. "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.”

The House Finance Committee also voted to remove the index to inflation, meaning the gas tax cannot increase as costs do, and to gradually implement the tax hike. And Marchbanks said that is 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," he said.

But Marchbanks – and Gov. Mike DeWine as well – 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 puts 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," Marchbanks said. "But they don’t tell us what to do. We determine what we want to do.”

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.