COLUMBUS—State Representative Tom Brinkman (R-Mt. Lookout) yesterday 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.
Rep. Brinkman was active in ensuring that various provisions impacting southwestern Ohio were included in the bill by championing two amendments. The first amendment compels the Ohio Department of Transportation to complete a study of the Eastern Bypass in collaboration with Kentucky.
“Explosive population growth has moved far beyond the current I-275 Circle Freeway,” Rep. Brinkman said. “This allows us to explore all options with our partners in the state of Kentucky.”
Rep. Brinkman also worked on a provision stating that investigative reports or audits on rail fixed guideway systems owned by a public entity are public records and can be used in court proceedings. Current law exempts audits or investigations on roadway accidents involving streetcars from public record law. In an effort to make these situations more transparent, Rep. Brinkman worked on a provision that would ensure that these records are made available to the public.
“Safety issues plague the streetcar, and current law allows SORTA to hide these issues from the press and public,” Rep. Brinkman said. “This will shine the light of day into the murky safety records of the street car.”
House Bill 26 also 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.
The bill will now be sent to the Senate for further consideration.