Ohio Senate likely to trim fuel hike proposal, repeal diesel fuel surcharge

| 3/25/2003

The Ohio Senate is expected to vote this week to cancel one-third of a proposed 6-cent fuel tax hike if the federal government helps with highway funds, according to local media.

The Republican-led chamber also plans to eliminate the 3-cent diesel fuel surcharge.

The proposed fuel tax, which would increase 2 cents a year through 2005, would have ultimately raised $402 million more a year solely for road projects, The Toledo Blade reported. When combined with proposed hikes in vehicle registration fees and drivers' licenses, the state Transportation Department hoped it would generate $580 million more a year.

Ohio pays more in federal fuel taxes than it takes in, according to the newspaper. If the state talks the U.S. Congress into providing it with at least $130 million more a year in highway aid, roughly what the final 2-cent component of the state fuel tax would generate, the increase would be eliminated under the Senate plan.

The bill is likely to end up in a joint conference committee to broker a compromise between the House and Senate versions.

The diesel differential would be phased out at the rate of a penny a year, costing ODOT $35 million each year, The Blade reported.

Senators also plan to drop a proposed vehicle-titling fee and instead raise driver's license fees and annual vehicle registration fees.

The bill includes an amendment lowering the state's blood-alcohol limit from 0.10 percent to 0.08. 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.