U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-OH, says Gov. John Kasich’s plan to borrow $1.5 billion against the value of the Ohio Turnpike “attempts to fix a problem that does not exist.”
Ryan says the bond plan is no better than a previous proposal by Kasich to lease the turnpike to private investors. The congressman fashioned his complaint in the form of written testimony to the state’s House Finance and Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, Feb. 26.
“I question whether the governor’s plan to load Ohio with nearly $1.5 billion in new bonding debt is the prudent, long-term financial decision for funding transportation projects in our state, and I have significant concerns about proposals that will allow turnpike revenue to be used for projects other than the turnpike,” Ryan stated.
“I have spoken out many times against the Kasich administration’s early discussion of privatization and other changes to the Turnpike that could result in a raid of its assets,” Ryan said.
“Several members of the Ohio congressional delegation have expressed concern over the state’s potential plans for the Turnpike as well. Now that privatization has been ruled out, we are seeing another proposal that attempts to fix a problem that does not exist.”
Ryan said the governor’ plan makes no guarantee that turnpike funds would stay with projects in Northern Ohio, something that was promised in previous discussions.
The Kasich plan would allow tolls to increase with the rate of inflation, but avoid larger leaps in toll rates that could have happened had the turnpike been leased to the private sector. Some saw that as a tradeoff, but not Ryan, who also called down the Kasich plan for not doing enough for public transportation.
“The Ohio Turnpike has been a powerful engine of development for northern Ohio which the governor’s plan now jeopardizes,” Ryan said. “I am further concerned that the governor’s plan does not include any caps on tolls and that the transportation budget makes no additional investments in public transportation or other modes of transportation that could lead to economic development and job creation in our cities.”
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