Ohio gas tax increase debate to resume Monday

March 30, 2019 GMT

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A joint Senate-House committee working on a compromise over a new state gas tax has delayed its work until Monday, April 1, after a series of delays Friday.

The committee is trying to iron out differences between an 11-cent increase proposed by Gov. Mike DeWine and House Speaker Larry Householder and a 6-cent increase proposed by Senate President Larry Obhof, all Republicans.

A joint Senate-House committee planned to meet Friday to iron out differences between their plans for the state Department of Transportation budget.

But the committee scheduled three consecutive meeting times on Friday and then delayed each one without explanation. No explanation was given on the decision to reconvene Monday, either.

The tax is needed to fix deteriorating roads and bridges, but lawmakers disagree on how much funding is necessary.

In the Tri-State, residents still needed some convincing, as well.

“I think 11 cents a gallon is too high,” said Dreama Jeffrey, of Chesapeake, Ohio. “It’s a bunch of crap. If my dog crapped in the yard, I think Gov. DeWine, if he could, would propose a tax on that, too.”

Jeffrey was among those buying gasoline at Clark’s Pump & Shop Marathon gas station at 6288 County Road 107 in Proctorville, Ohio, on Friday afternoon.

But Jeff Wills, of Proctorville, says he is glad it wasn’t a larger increase.

“I heard on the news that the governor wanted an 18-cent increase, so I guess it could be worse,” he said.

DeWine and Householder announced their deal Thursday. Under their agreement, the diesel fuel tax would also rise, by 20 cents per gallon.

But as of Friday, Senate lawmakers weren’t in agreement yet.

“We’re not comfortable with those numbers,” Sen. Matt Dolan, a Republican from Chagrin Falls in northeastern Ohio, said Thursday.

The original Senate plan increased the current tax of 28 cents a gallon for gas and diesel by only 6 cents.

Householder said the current Senate proposal involves an 8.5 cents-per-gallon gasoline increase and a 13 cents-per-gallon increase on diesel.

Householder put pressure on Senate lawmakers to act, saying that making tough decisions comes with the job.

“The fact is, this is the job we were hired to do,” Householder said Thursday. “When you come here, you’ve got to put on your big-boy pants, you’ve got to pull your binky out of your mouth and you’ve got to make tough decisions.”

DeWine called the 11-cent compromise a way to “improve and maintain” safer roads and bridges across Ohio.

The House and Senate, in the meantime, have agreed on a figure that would boost public transportation funding, adding $70 million a year, up from the current $33 million.

Ohio hasn’t increased its state gas tax since 2005. The change might take some getting used to, particularly for those in border counties.

Raymond Hershberger, a construction worker from Bidwell, Ohio, says if the gasoline tax increase makes prices much higher than in Kentucky and West Virginia, he will just drive over the bridges to get his gas in those states.

“The prices in the Tri-State are pretty much the same right now,” he said at Clark’s Pump & Shop. “But if they go up 11 cents higher, then I will just drive over the bridge to Huntington and get my gas.”

Hershberger says he normally gets coffee and snacks when he gets gasoline, so he think it could also hurt the gasoline stations in the border areas of the Tri-State.

“I don’t know if they even thought about what this increase in gas tax might do to those businesses,” he said.