Legislature enacts new transportation budget – record funding for Public Transit moves forward

By Jason Warner, GOPC Manager of Government Affairs

The Ohio General Assembly was able to come together and pass the state transportation budget after reaching agreement on record funding for public transportation and an increase in both the state motor fuel and diesel taxes. The agreement was signed by Governor DeWine yesterday and the new biennial transportation budget will go into effect in 90 days.

Nearly two months after Governor Mike DeWine’s Advisory Committee on Transportation Infrastructure first met to discuss the ‘fiscal cliff’ facing the Ohio Department of Transportation, lawmakers heeded the advice of the panel and approved:

  • $70 million per year over the next two years for public transit funding

  • An increase of 10.5 cents per gallon in the state motor fuel tax, increasing the current rate from 28 cents to 38.5 cents effective July 1, 2019

  • An increase of 19 cents per gallon in the state diesel fuel tax, increasing the current rate from 28 cents to 47 cents effective July 1, 2019

  • New vehicle registration fees for owners of electric or hybrid vehicles. Electric vehicle owners will now pay an additional $200 fee , and hybrid vehicle owners will pay an additional $100 fee, on top of existing vehicle registration fees beginning January 1, 2020

The new funding approved represents the largest investment on the part of the state for public transit in at least a generation. Between 2000 and 2019, state funding for public transit had decreased by nearly 85% - to a level of funding not seen since the early 1980’s. An investment of $70 million as approved by lawmakers nearly doubles the total amount of money approved in 2017 for transit. Previously, “flex” funding from the federal government contributed the largest share of transit funding in Ohio, but with this new budget, all state funding for transit will now come from the state general revenue fund. More specifics about how the new funding will be allocated between Ohio’s transit systems will still need to be worked out by policymakers at ODOT.

Because the funding has been shifted to the general fund, the appropriation will need to be approved as part of the larger state budget bill, which needs to be approved by lawmakers by June 30. See GOPC’s review of the “as introduced” operating budget here. Transit advocates will need to continue to press their lawmakers to support this funding, which will help to make significant progress in innovating Ohio’s transit systems to meet 21st century needs and demand.

The removal of transit funding from the transportation budget will free up an additional $33 million per year for road and bridge projects, along with the estimated new revenues from the increases in the motor fuel and diesel fuel tax rates. These increases are estimated to produce $1.73 billion in new revenue over the next two years. Tax revenue, along with the $26.6 million in new revenue generated from the electric and hybrid vehicle registration fees, will be split between state and local governments for road and bridge maintenance. The state will receive 55% of the revenue, while local governments (counties, municipalities and townships) will receive 45% – a change from the current 60/40 allocation split.

Read the final transportation budget online through the Ohio Legislative Service Commission.