COLUMBUS—State Representative Craig S. Riedel (R-Defiance) voted to approve House Bill 26, the state transportation budget, a two-year funding plan that addresses Ohio’s infrastructure needs while utilizing innovations in technology and maintaining a competitive tax structure.
The transportation budget, sponsored by Rep. Rob McColley (R-Napoleon), invests more than $7.8 billion over the next two years through creative and financially responsible proposals to both meet Ohio’s current infrastructure needs and position it for continued growth in the future.
“I believe the transportation budget we passed today will allow for the continual growth of Ohio’s transportation industries and will lead to safer highways and bridges, that will benefit all Ohioans,” Riedel said.
House Bill 26 retains the taxation of the motor fuel tax (MFT) at the wholesale level, which ensures that business owners continue to have about a month after purchasing fuel before having to pay tax to the state. The bill also continues to exempt compressed natural gas (CNG) from the motor fuel tax to avoid placing an additional burden on an industry that is still in its early stages.
In an effort to make Ohio's trucking industry more competitive with other states, the bill creates a pilot program in four specific counties in which registration fees on semis will be cut in half, from $30 to $15, for two years. During that time, the Registrar of Motor Vehicles will be tasked with studying the effectiveness of the pilot program.
The bill emphasizes expanding convenience and availability of local services, including: allowing vehicle owners to receive motor vehicle registration notices electronically; permitting a third-party business to advertise in a deputy registrar’s office; and allowing non-government deputy registrars to operate vending machines.
It also authorizes the Director of Transportation to establish variable speed limits that differ from the statutory speed limits on I-670 and US 33 in central Ohio and I-90 near Cleveland. This corresponds in part to various projects in Ohio aimed at expanding the use on technology on roadways. US 33 between Dublin and East Liberty, for example, will be known as the “Smart Mobility Corridor,” a 35-mile stretch designed to foster real-world research into autonomous and connected vehicles.
Other major provisions of the bill include:
• Permitting an unattended vehicle to be running if locked or parked on residential property
• Making the failure to display a front license plate a secondary offense if the car is legally parked
• Increasing the transaction fee for deputy registrars to $5.25 from $3.50
• Allowing the operator of a watercraft to monitor skiers with a mirror and eliminates the requirement that another person is in the watercraft to monitor the skier
• Permitting a county commission to levy a $5 motor vehicle license fee, revenues of which must be used for transportation purposes
• Increasing the earmark for Transportation Improvement Districts currently in the bill to $4.5 million per year from $3.5 million
House Bill 26 now awaits consideration in the Ohio Senate.