OHIO — Last Tuesday, April 3, the Ohio State Legislature gave its final support to House Bill 62, more commonly known as the ‘gas tax’ bill. Beginning this July, Ohioans will pay 10.5 cents more per gallon in tax at the pump, and 19 cents more per gallon for diesel. There will also be new registration fees of $200 for electric vehicles and $100 for hybrids.

The revenue raised from the new taxes and fees will go towards maintaining and improving Ohio’s network of roads and bridges. 55% of the new funds will flow to the state, and 45% will go towards local governments. This is a slight change from the 60% state, 40% local split for current tax revenue, which will remain unchanged.

Funding for public transit will also see an increase of $70 million per year, more than doubling current spending according to the Toledo Blade’s reporting. And, license plates will no longer be required on the front of vehicles, a change opposed by law enforcement.

Putnam County’s representatives in the statehouse were split on supporting the final bill. Representative Jim Hoops (R, Napoleon) voted in favor of the tax increase. Senator Rob McColley (R, Napoleon) voted against.

Regarding his vote, Senator McColley released a statement that in part reads, “I have been very consistent in my view that any tax increases must be offset by tax cuts, so that Ohioans do not pay any more for essential government services.”

“Largely, the people of the 1st Senate district agree, and I promised those constituents that I would only support a gas tax increase if there were offsetting tax cuts. I believe in the importance of doing what we told our constituents we would do, which is why I voted ‘no’ on the transportation budget.”

When reached by phone, Representative Hoops offered his reasoning for supporting the increase, saying, “By passing it, the focus is on ODOT’s needs and the needs of local governments to continue to maintain what we already have. For issues of safety, it’s going to help deal with those issues.”

“The other thing I like, more money is going to go to local governments. We changed the formula so 45% is now going to the local government. This was based on what I heard from county engineers, township trustees, county commissioners, and municipalities. The increase allows for public safety on our highways and bridges. We’ll stay ahead of the curve.”

Representative Hoops comments echo those given by Putnam County Engineer Michael Lenhart when Governor Mike DeWine first proposed an increase earlier this year. “Our asphalt paving costs approximately $100,000 to $125,000 per mile,” Lenhart wrote in an email this past February. “We are currently paving about 12 miles less than we should to properly maintain our roads. We could use this money to correct this problem since this would cost $1.2 million to $1.5 million of additional money annually.”

“We also have several of our 264 bridges that could be replaced or rehabilitated. These types of projects could cost anywhere from $100,000 to over $1 million (depending on funding acquired). We also have several of our 1,700 culverts that could be replaced. These types of projects could cost anywhere from a few thousand dollars to as much as $100,000. “The cost of some of our construction materials have increased by over 250 percent in the last 10-12 years. This additional money would help us purchase asphalt, stone, road salt, pipe, catch basins, etc.”

“As a whole, this state gas tax increase will help improve and maintain the transportation network of state, county, township and local roads that is so vital to our everyday lives. In order to help the traveling public be as safe as possible, keeping this transportation network in good condition should be a top priority for all that utilize it every day.”

Governor DeWine signed the agreement last Wednesday, April 3. The bill goes into effect 90 days after signing.