ELECTION 2014: A look at Ohio governor's transportation track record

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 9/16/2014

In seven weeks Ohio voters will head to the ballot box to cast votes on numerous offices and topics. Among the seats up for grabs is the one for the state’s chief executive – the Republican governor, John Kasich.

As the Nov. 4 election approaches it is a good idea to revisit some noteworthy actions taken by Gov. Kasich, who is vying for re-election against Democrat Ed FitzGerald.

During Kasich’s four years in office he has signed into law various rules of significance to the trucking industry.

Earlier this year, he signed a bill into law to use toll taxes to pay off reconstruction of the Brent Spence Bridge.

The state can now enter into an agreement with Kentucky and a private group to construct, operate and finance Ohio’s segment of the bridge that carries Interstates 71 and 75 into northern Kentucky.

Kentucky has not approved authorization of a public-private partnership for the $2.6 billion replacement and renovation project.

Also signed into law this year is a bill to require the Ohio Department of Taxation to notify businesses in the state when they overpay their taxes and provide automatic refunds in the form of credits toward future taxes.

One year ago, Kasich put his signature on a $7.6 billion transportation budget bill. The main component called for borrowing $1.5 billion against the Ohio Turnpike to help pay for road work across the state.

The two-year budget guarantees that 90 percent of the bond money is used on northern Ohio roads. Specifically, the money can be used on roads within 75 miles of the turnpike.

In return for the toll road taking on debt, toll rates will increase annually for the next 10 years for many users. Toll rates for EZ Pass users traveling fewer than 30 miles on the turnpike were frozen for the next decade.

Another provision increased 65 mph speeds by 5 mph to 70 mph for all vehicles on the state’s rural interstates. Other roadways were also authorized for faster speeds.

The governor used his line-item veto authority to remove one provision that sought to use $7.5 million annually from the Ohio Department of Transportation to reimburse railroads for road maintenance within the rights-of-way that they own or control.

“This provision represents a shift in the responsibility for routine maintenance of crossings from the railroads to the state, thereby diverting limited transportation resources from much-needed highway projects across the state,” Kasich wrote in his veto message.

In 2012, Kasich signed a bill into law that targets hidden compartments in vehicles, including large trucks and trailers. Specifically, vehicles found to include hidden compartments, with or without drugs, could net violators up to 18 months in jail and $5,000 fines.

Only compartments added after a vehicle leaves the factory would be affected.

Intended as a protection for law-abiding truckers and others, that may build aftermarket-installed compartments, the rule applies an exemption to “a box, safe, container or other item” added to the vehicle to secure valuables or firearms.

During his first year in office, Kasich signed two bills into law to facilitate public-private partnerships.

HB114 permits the state to partner with private groups to complete road work.
HB153 permits state officials to move forward with pursuit of a lease deal for the Ohio Turnpike. As part of any lease deal, state lawmakers would have some oversight.

For more 2014 election coverage from Land Line, click here.

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