Gas Tax Increase – Time for Discussion?

Ohio Gas Tax explainedA review of infrastructure news over the past year makes two things very clear. First, everyone agrees that highways and bridges in Ohio and throughout the country desperately need repair, upgrade or replacement.  Second, everyone understands that transportation infrastructure improvements come with a cost, but very few are willing to discuss raising the gas tax as a revenue strategy.  In fact, a Google News search for July-December 2012 using the search terms “gas tax increase” and “raise the gas tax” generates few results – literally one or two.  In comparison, the same keyword search for January 2013 to date produces many news stories from around the country.

Of course, 2012 was an election year and much of the post-election news focused on the anticipated fiscal cliff.  But whatever the reason, gas tax discussions have been percolating in many states since the New Year began.  Here is a sampling of recent newspaper articles and there are many more:

Vigorous gas tax debate and new legislative proposals are increasing around the United States which brings us home to Ohio.  We are a leader in creating innovative solutions for funding our transportation infrastructure.  For the very first time, we have utilized a Public-Private Partnership (P3) approach to fund and build Cleveland’s second Inner Belt Bridge.  And the Kasich Administration’s decision not to privatize the Ohio Turnpike will generate $1.5 billion in new state highway funds through bonds issued by the Ohio Turnpike Commission and supported by toll revenues.  With matching federal and local funding, a total of $3 billion will be available for major highway construction projects in Ohio.

The P3 and Ohio Turnpike decisions are bold, innovative solutions for infrastructure improvement in our state.  But it is also generally accepted that the best long term strategy for infrastructure funding will generate revenue from a combination of sources.  While the current model of a fixed rate gas tax may be outdated, a modest rate increase with future adjustments indexed to inflation certainly merits consideration.  As we look ahead and envision a superior network of Ohio highways and bridges for years to come, shouldn’t the gas tax be part of the discussion?

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