Last week, the Ohio House passed the first biennial budget bill, the state transportation budget. House Bill 26, sponsored by Representative Rob McColley, chairman of the Finance Subcommittee on Transportation, appropriates just under $8 billion over the next two years for Ohio’s transportation and public safety needs.
While the bill’s primary purpose is to fund Ohio’s infrastructure needs, including its vast highway system, and make technological innovations, it also seeks to make Ohio more competitive through common-sense reforms that positively impact local communities.
House Bill 26 maintains a competitive tax structure, particularly related to the motor fuel tax (MFT). By maintaining the taxation of the MFT at the wholesale level, business owners have about a month after purchasing fuel before having to pay tax to the state. This helps businesses that may have otherwise had to make these payments before earning revenue from the sale of fuel.
Additionally, the Ohio House maintained the current exemption of compressed natural gas (CNG) from the MFT through the bill. The CNG industry in Ohio is in its early stages, and this exemption relieves the industry from further burden, allowing it to remain on the forefront of development.
The transportation budget not only makes responsible tax adjustments, but it also makes common-sense reforms for everyday Ohioans. For example, the bill permits an unattended vehicle to be running if it is locked or parked on a residential property. Without this change, an individual could be fined for simply warming up their car in their driveway during one of Ohio’s brutal winters. It also changes the failure to display a front license plate to a secondary offense. This way, a driver of a legally parked vehicle cannot be ticketed solely for not having a front license plate. These changes remove unnecessary burdens from Ohioans who strive every day to make it to and from work safely and soundly.
The provisions under House Bill 26 also impacts Ohio’s local communities. Among several other measures, the legislation provides greater flexibility for county deputy registrar offices. These changes, which include making it easier for them to generate additional resources and better utilize technology, will help them both meet their cost needs and retain quality workers, ensuring access to all Ohioans.
Funds for Transportation Improvement Districts were also increased to $4.5 million per year from $3.5 million, which better supports projects that promote the relationship between public and private entities regarding transportation resources and investments.
Clearly, Ohio’s state transportation budget for Fiscal Years 2018-2019 includes many reforms, funding priorities, and policies that encourage technological advances. Through all of these improvements, the ultimate goal of this legislation is to promote business growth while securing safe roads and bridges across the state. House Bill 26 is now being deliberated by the Ohio Senate, but I am already proud of the work and effort done to make Ohio’s roadways not only safer, but moving at the speed of business.
Cliff Rosenberger is the Ohio House Speaker.