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COLUMBUS — A Republican state lawmaker has proposed upping vehicle registration fees as a better means of covering the costs of maintaining Ohio roadways.
And Sen. Bill Coley (R-West Chester) said the additional upfront cost for motorists would be offset by gas tax breaks afterward — in other words, motorists would pay their share of Ohio’s motor fuel tax up front annually and then not have to pay those taxes again when filling their gas tanks.
“You pay your $140 and you’re done paying gas tax for the year in the state of Ohio,” Coley said during a midday press conference at the Statehouse.
Coley said he offered the changes as part of discussions on the biennial transportation budget, which the Ohio Senate is expected to move March 21, setting the stage for conference committee deliberations and a final legislative vote sometime next week.
His proposal won’t be part of the two-year spending plan for the Ohio Department of Transportation and a handful of other state agencies, however; Coley instead introduced the changes as separate legislation, SB 113
The state needs to address the gas tax issue, given increased use of vehicles that run on alternative fuels, he said. Operators of Teslas, cars that run on compressed natural gas and others aren’t paying gas taxes at the same levels as convention vehicles, though they are driving on Ohio’s roads just as much.
“We’re consuming fewer and fewer gallons of gas for every mile driven, and yet it’s not getting any cheaper to build roads,” Coley said.
Coley also said Ohio vehicle registration fees are lower than other states.
Under Coley’s proposal, the state would increase vehicle registration fees to cover what is currently generated by the state’s motor vehicle fuel tax, meaning regular motorists would pay about $140 annually instead of $30-some currently charged, he said. Fees would be higher for trucks.
Motorists, in return, would receive cards that they could scan when purchasing fuel, exempting them from paying any motor fuel tax for the year.
“They would swipe that card in the gas pump, they pump their gas, and 28 cents per gallon… would come off the price of their fuel,” he said.
SB 113 was formally introduced March 21, with Coley as the main sponsor and one other lawmaker listed as a co-sponsor. It will be assigned to a committee for further consideration.
Marc Kovac covers the Ohio Statehouse for Gatehouse Media. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.