Ohio officials propose fuel tax

| 1/2/2003

A state revenue crunch has Ohio officials looking to the fuel pump and vehicle paperwork fees to help fund road projects.

Without either an increase in state funding or an increase from the federal government, it's a distinct possibility" the state will run out of money for new road construction projects by 2006, Brian Cunningham, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation, told the Coshocton Tribune.

The task force, made up of state and local lawmakers, state agency officials and representatives of transportation interests, has recommended the state raise its fuel tax and increase vehicle paperwork fees to help deal with substantial needs for road and bridge repair," the newspaper reported.

The group as a whole stopped short of specifying the increase amount, but individual members are recommending 3 to 6 cents, the Tribune reported. Each penny raises about $63 million.

Ohio's 22-cent fuel tax produced $1.43 billion in fiscal year 2002, a figure that has declined slightly over the past two years. Most of that money is divided among state projects, local governments and the Ohio Highway Patrol, which gets about 13 percent of the tax collected.

The committee also recommended removing the Highway Patrol from the fuel tax, effectively freeing up about $190 million that would go to local road projects, according to the newspaper. The patrol would then be funded by increased fees for vehicle registrations, titles and driver's licenses.

Gov. Bob Taft has stopped short of committing to a fuel tax increase but noted that if nothing is done, road construction money will disappear.