By Matt Reese
On April 2, Gov. Mike DeWine signed a transportation budget that will bump the state tax on gasoline to 38.5 cents per gallon and 47 cents a gallon on diesel fuel (off-road is excluded from the tax increase). This is an increase of 10.5 cents for gas and 19 cents for diesel. The governor initially pushed for increase of 18 cents a gallon for gas and diesel fuel to address the state’s deteriorating road infrastructure.
The new tax rates will begin July 1. In addition, there will be a 19-cent per gallon tax for compressed natural gas, which has not previously been taxed, phased in over 5 years. Registration fees for hybrid and electric vehicles are included in the budget as well. The state will get 55% of the funds from the tax increases and 45% will go to local governments for road maintenance and improvements. The transportation budget also has a provision that cuts costs by eliminating the requirement for front license plates on vehicles after July 1, 2020.
Many in agriculture were supportive of the tax increases due to the vital need to maintain Ohio’s road infrastructure.
“Money the state receives through the fee on motor fuel hasn’t kept pace with maintenance and construction needs to keep Ohio roadways in good condition. These roadways are the lifeblood for farmers to get grain to the marketplace,” said Jon Miller, president of the Ohio Corn & Wheat Growers Association. “The advisory committee and the governor have laid out a case, and it shows, that there is a need for additional revenue in order to maintain investment that we made in highways across Ohio.”
Agriculture is also pleased with one measure not included in the transportation budget — an amendment increasing quick take authority, which allows property to be taken immediately without the normal eminent domain process. This amendment was being pushed by utility companies to bypass normal eminent domain procedures and allow them the ability to instead take immediate possession of property. If passed, the amendment would have allowed utility companies to take possession of a property by depositing funds with the court of an amount the utility believes is an appropriate value.
“This amendment eliminates the landowner’s negotiating power,” said Jenna Beadle, Ohio Farm Bureau Federation director of state policy.
An additional provision of the amendment allowed project approval by the Ohio Power Siting Board to be used as a determination of need for the project under eminent domain.
“This takes away a landowner’s right to argue the necessity of the project or whether an existing easement could be used for the project,” Beadle said.
This expanded authority was ultimately not included in the final transportation budget, but Beadle said she expects the issue to reappear in future legislation.