February 8, 2019
OML UPDATE AT-A-GLANCE
Here are the top three things you need to know from this past week:
- Rep. Theresea Gaverone (R - Bowling Green) has been selected by the Senate Republican Caucus to fill the 2nd Senate District seat. That district was previously represented by Sen. Randy Gardner (R - Bowling Green), who is now the chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education.
- The Ohio House of Representatives Republican caucus announced this week that they are appointing retired U.S. Marine Corps Col. Adam Holmes to fill the 97th House District seat. The seat was left vacant by Rep. Brian Hill (R - Zanesville), who was appointed earlier this year to fill the 20th Senate District seat left vacant by Congressman Troy Balderson.
- The Ohio EPA has announced they will be providing $23 million in loans to help central Ohio communities finance wastewater and drinking water infrastructure improvements. These low-interest loans are projected to save those communities approximately $3.6 million. You can read more about the Ohio EPA's state revolving loan fund HERE.
GAS TAX INCREASE RECOMMENDED BY GOVERNOR'S TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE ADVISORY COMMITTEE
On Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, the majority of the members on the Governor's Advisory Committee on Transportation Infrastructure recommended to the legislature that they increase the motor fuel tax in order to maintain and improve Ohio's transportation system. This recommendation was issued after two days of testimony from various stakeholders invested in Ohio's transportation infrastructure, including the League. You can read the League's testimony
The committee met for the first time this week on Tuesday and for the second and final time on Wednesday. Both the Ohio Department of Transportation and the Ohio Department of Public Safety testified at Tuesday's meeting. Department of Transportation Director Jack Marchbanks told the members of the Advisory Committee that a "perfect storm" formed from no increase in the gas tax, better fuel efficiency, the lack of any more turnpike bond revenue and the proliferation of alternative fuel sources has created a future where Ohio cannot maintain current transportation infrastructure, much less invest in new projects.
Director Marchbanks went on explain that the state is $4 billion in debt and paying $390 million each year in debt service payments. "Delaying needed maintenance only results in more cost in the long run," he said. Both he and a representative from the State Highway Patrol agreed that as bridges and roadways fall into disrepair, Ohio motorists are at risk.
On Wednesday, representatives from stakeholder industries, counties, townships and municipalities recommended various means of raising the necessary funds for transportation infrastructure. Among them were Middletown Mayor Larry Mulligan, Lakewood Mayor Mike Summers and the Ohio Municipal League. Many urged for a gas tax increase, with some witnesses reminding the panel that it is not so much a tax as it is a user fee.
In the League's testimony, municipalities' transportation needs were out lined clearly. Ohio's state-local roadway network spans over 250,000 lane miles and 44,000 bridges, with over 300 million vehicle miles travelled, annually. Municipalities maintain over 70,000 lane miles and 2500 bridges and have an annual count of over 100 million vehicle miles traveled. About 21,000 of these municipal lane miles, including local connectors and arterials and state highways maintained by municipalities, carry over a quarter of all vehicle miles traveled in our state. It is obvious that properly funding transportation infrastructure is key to ensure our municipalities, and therefore the state, are thriving.
The Advisory Committee was largely in consensus that a gas tax increase will be needed to properly fund transportation infrastructure. Some voiced their approval for indexing the gas tax while others spoke to the importance of getting revenue from alternative fuel vehicles. The committee's final recommendations will be collated into a report, due to be released at some point before the transportation budget is introduced. The transportation budget is expected to be introduced shortly.
The League supports the recommendations of the committee and we applaud the fact that this discussion is taking place. We anticipate that this dialogue will continue and urge that the administration and the legislature seriously consider a funding solution and act swiftly to ensure Ohio's transportation infrastructure is adequately funded for years to come.
GOVERNOR DEWINE, SPEAKER HOUSEHOLDER SPEAK ON TRANSPORTATION INFRASTRUCTURE FUNDING
In addition to the recommendation from the Advisory Committee, the League is grateful to see this crucial topic being seriously discussed by the DeWine Administration. Earlier this week at the Ohio Township Association Winter Conference, the Governor spoke about the release of a state report next week that will "paint a pretty grim picture" of how the state's transportation infrastructure is faring.
The Governor said he was shocked when he learned just how much is lacking in funding for transportation infrastructure - something he said he was not fully aware of before he was sworn in to office. "We have a serious, serious problem in regard to revenue," he said, going on to caution that Ohio is headed for a cliff in transportation infrastructure funding.
Governor DeWine is not the only state leader discussing Ohio's transportation infrastructure funding needs. Last week, Speaker Larry Householder (R - Glenford) spoke with reporters about the transportation budget, saying all options "are on the table" regarding properly funding the state's transportation infrastructure.
The League looks forward to work with the DeWine administration, the legislature and local leaders across the state to ensure Ohio's transportation infrastructure will be properly funded. It is encouraging to see Governor DeWine and Speaker Householder draw attention to this important issue. We will continue to report on these discussions and hope to see funding solutions being introduced soon.
LEGISLATURE ANNOUNCES NEW CAUCUS LEADERSHIP, FINANCE COMMITTEE CHAIRS
The Republican caucuses in both the House and the Senate have announced new caucus leadership appointments this week. In the Senate, former Sen. Randy Gardner (R - Bowling Green) resigned to become chancellor of the Department of Higher Education. His resignation not only left open his Senate District seat, now filled by Sen. Theresea Gaverone (R - Bowling Green), but the position of Senate Majority Floor Leader as well. Senate Republicans have announced that Sen. Matt Huffman (R - Lima) will become Majority Floor Leader while Sen. Jay Hottinger (R - Newark) will fill Sen. Huffman's former position as Majority Whip.
The House Republican formerly elected their leadership team as well. Joining Speaker Householder (R - Glenford) in leadership are: Rep. Jim Bulter (R - Dayton) as speaker pro tem; Rep. Bill Seitz (R - Cincinnati) as majority floor leader; Rep. Anthony DeVitis (R - Uniontown) as assistant floor leader; Rep. Jay Edwards (R - Nelsonville) as majority whip; and Rep. Laura Lanese (R - Grove City) as assistant majority whip.
Finally, Senate President Larry Obhof (R - Medina) announced that Sen. Matt Dolan (R - Chagrin Falls) will chair the Senate Finance Committee. This follows the announcement from Speaker Larry Householder (R - Glenford) that Rep. Schott Oelslager (R - North Canton) will chair the House Finance Committee. Neither the House or the Senate have announced committee chairs, and we will alter our members as soon as that announcement is made.
The League congratulates all these legislators on their new positions, and we look forward to working with them to strengthen and invest in Ohio's municipalities over the course of the 133
rd General Assembly.