Ohio House approves transportation budget

| 3/14/2003

The Ohio House this week approved the state’s $4.7 billion transportation budget, according to local media.

The budget bill approved by the House 63 to 34 on March 12 now heads to the Senate for consideration.

The bill would increase the state’s fuel tax 2 cents a year for three years; boost fees for vehicle registrations and driver’s licenses; and lower the threshold for drunken driving.

An increase of 2 cents a year through 2005 would make Ohio’s fuel tax, at 28 cents, the highest in the region. When fully implemented, it would raise $402 million more a year solely for highway projects, The Toledo Blade reported.

Significant hikes in driver’s license, registration and vehicle-titling fees would raise another $177 million for a total of $579 million.

The Ohio Highway Patrol, which now uses 2.9 cents of the fuel tax, would be gradually transferred to the fees as a funding source, freeing up its share of the fuel tax for local projects.

Conceding to federal pressure, an amendment to the bill lowers the state’s blood-alcohol limit from 0.10 to 0.08 percent blood alcohol content.

A 2000 federal law requires each state’s legislature to adopt the 0.08 limit by 2004 or lose 2 percent of its highway aid.

Ohio would lose $49 million in federal money by 2006 if it does not lower the limit, the newspaper reported.

The Senate, which began its hearings on the bill March 11, has six session days to pass the bill before the constitutional deadline of March 31.