GOPC’s Recommendation to Boost Public Transit Included in 2018-19 Ohio Senate Transportation Budget

March 27th, 2017

By Jason Warner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) would like to thank the Ohio Senate for approving a transportation budget that would allocate an additional $15 million over two years to public transportation. In alignment with GOPC’s recommendations that Ohio repower its ailing bus fleet, the Senate’s budget would support a new grant program using funds from the Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Fund to support public transit.

In a strong bipartisan effort, the Ohio Senate unanimously approved Am. Sub. HB 26, the state transportation budget for fiscal years 2018 and 2019 on March 22nd. All 24 Republican members and the 9 Democratic members of the chamber voted to support passage of the budget. Over the course of eight hearings, Senators heard testimony from a number of organizations, including GOPC, who advocated for an increase in funding for public transportation.

As GOPC noted in testimony before the Transportation, Commerce and Workforce Committee last week, Ohio appropriates only 2% of the state transportation budget to public transportation, while peer states spend between 10-20% of their transportation funds on transit-related needs and services. Governor Kasich’s proposed budget recommended spending an additional roughly $33 million annually in federal highway “flex” funds for public transit capital appropriations (purchasing new “rolling stock”, or buses), which was an increase of $10 million per year over the current budget.

GOPC thanks the members of the Ohio Senate for recognizing the need for additional support for public transit in the state and encourages the Ohio House of Representatives to support this Senate-backed provision in the budget.

In testimony, GOPC encouraged the legislature to spend an additional $17 million per year, boosting overall funding in public transportation to $50 million annually. The Senate-approved budget plan to strengthen public transportation using Volkswagen Mitigation Trust Funds would support a grant program that assists local transit agencies in purchasing new buses and transit vans across the state.

Later that same day, the Ohio House, which was the first to pass the transportation budget on March 1, voted to reject the full slate of Senate-approved changes 88-0. The bill now moves to a conference committee which will settle the differences between the two bills. Final passage of the budget bill will occur later this week, as state law requires Governor Kasich to sign the transportation budget by April 1.  

Learn more about GOPC’s policy research and advocacy to modernize Ohio’s transportation system

 

Cota on high st

2018-19 Transportation Budget Passes Ohio House and Advances to Senate

March 10th, 2017

By Jason Warner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

This is the second in a series of articles taking a closer look as specific items contained in the Governor’s proposed budget for FY2018-19, which the legislature must pass by June 30, 2017. The first article is available here.

It has been a busy couple of weeks at the Ohio Statehouse as work continues on the drafting of the state Transportation Budget for Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019.  The House Finance Committee passed the transportation budget on February 24, while the full House approved the bill on March 1. The Senate Transportation, Commerce and Workforce Committee held its initial hearing on the bill with testimony from ODOT Director Wray and other administration officials a day before, on February 28. Hearings have been ongoing during the week of March 6th as well.

The House-passed budget maintained the as-introduced budget proposal to increase the amount of federal flex-funding dedicated towards public transportation by $10 million annually, up from $23 million currently. A portion of this funding ($10 million per year), will be distributed by formula to transit agencies, while the remaining funds will be competitively awarded through grants to replace the state’s aging fleet of vans and buses with more modern equipment that is more fuel efficient and requires less maintenance. Greater Ohio Policy Center (GOPC) continues to advocate for additional funding for this program, asking the legislature to appropriate a total of $50 million annually (this would require an additional $17 million per year above what is in the current budget proposal).

Learn more on GOPC’s Transportation Modernization page to learn more about this important issue area

Among the other highlights of the House version of the ODOT budget:

  • Maintains exemption from the motor fuel tax (MFT) for aviation fuel, K-1 kerosene and compressed natural gas (CNG);
  • Eliminates the change from collecting the MFT from the point when it is ‘received’ in Ohio to the terminal refinery rack;
  • Increases the service fee paid to a deputy registrar from $3.50 to $5.25 and increases the multi-year registration fee by a similar percentage;
  • Permits a county commission to levy a $5 motor vehicle license fee for transportation purposes. Under current law, cities, townships and counties may establish a combination of local motor vehicle registration taxes totaling up-to $20. This new fee (which is optional for counties) increases the total amount of local motor vehicle registration taxes totaling up-to $25;
  • Requires the Registrar or Motor Vehicles to conduct a study of the benefits and detriments of lowering the permanent registration fee for commercial trailers and semitrailers and streamlining the registration process. A pilot program will be conducted between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2019 with the fees being reduced from $30 to $15 for vehicle registrations in Clinton, Lucas, Montgomery and Stark counties;
  • Increases the earmark for Transportation Improvement Districts (TID’s) to $4.5 million in each fiscal year. A TID is a special-purpose district created by an Ohio county for the purpose of coordinating and financing road construction projects among local governments and private partnerships in that county. At present, there are 30 TID’s across Ohio;
  • Limits the proposal to permit the ODOT director to establish variable speed limits to a pilot program on highways that are a part of ODOT’s Smart Mobility Initiative, specifically I-670 (Franklin County), I-90 (Cuyahoga County) and U.S. Route 33 (Franklin, Union Counties); pilot program expires December 31, 2018.

GOPC continues to advocate for the increase in federal flex funding for public transportation, as well as advocate for establishment of dedicated funding for public transit, adoption of a statewide active transportation policy, and comprehensive reform of the ODOT budget. This is happening in one-on-one meetings with members of the Ohio Senate, as well as testimony before the Transportation, Commerce and Workforce committee, which is planned to occur next week.

Learn more on GOPC’s Transportation Modernization page to learn more about this important issue area