September 16, 2014

GOP Transportation Chair: unfair for Turnpike drivers to pay for projects elsewhere

In a recent interview with Ohio Public TV, State Rep. Rex Damschroder articulated an argument you’ll hear a lot soon, once Governor Kasich unveils his plans to “unlock” the value of the Ohio Turnpike to help fund transportation projects around the state:

In short, why is it fair for Northern Ohio drivers to continue to pay tolls years into the future to finance transportation projects in Cincinnati and Columbus?

Or, as Damschroder told The Blade in a story yesterday:

“It’s pretty clear that unless they make it a free highway for us, I don’t want to pay tolls for the rest of my lifetime as an extra tax for transportation projects across Ohio,” said Rep. Rex Damschroder (R., Fremont). “Having said that, I have not read what’s in the governor’s proposal, and I’m not going to criticize it until I see what it says.”

If Governor Kasich is looking for a way to fill a gap between future construction needs and anticipated revenue, a solution would be to spread those cost across the entire state, rather than burdening only one region’s drivers. You can do that through increased bonding, an increase in the state’s gas tax, or lobbying Congress to authorize a new Transportation bill ending Ohio’s status as a “donor state” when it comes to what we get back in highway funding in exchange for federal gas taxes paid. Ohio can also use innovative financing approaches in which the actual users — drivers on brand new roadways and bridges, for example — finance its construction through tolls.

But asking Northern Ohio drivers to carry the burden for projects everywhere else in the state isn’t fair.

Rex Damschroder (R-Fremont) is the Chairman of the Ohio House Transportation committee.