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Dems criticize Kasich for turnpike plan



Published: Fri, December 14, 2012 @ 12:08 a.m.

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Gov. John Kasich discussed his plan to borrow $1.5 billion, leveraging Ohio Turnpike tolls, during a Thursday event at Cerni Motors in Austintown.

By David Skolnick

skolnick@vindy.com

AUSTINTOWN

Gov. John Kasich is proposing to raise about $3 billion to make improvements to the Ohio Turnpike and other nearby roads and bridges, almost all in the northern part of the state.

The proposal, unveiled Thursday, would allow the state to borrow $1.5 billion, leveraging turnpike tolls, with Kasich saying another $1.5 billion could be matched from federal and local funds.

The first $1 billion would be borrowed in 2013, he said.

Kasich, a Republican, made three stops Thursday in Ohio, including Cerni Motors in Austintown, located a few miles from the 241-mile turnpike, to discuss the proposal that needs approval of the state Legislature.

When asked by The Vindicator about the $3 billion, Kasich said it was a conservative figure and could be as high as $5 billion.

About 90 percent of the money raised would be used for projects on the turnpike or work done near the highway, which travels across the northern part of the state.

The plan would be done without leasing or selling the turnpike — something Kasich has considered for nearly two years — or without large increases in tolls.

Tolls would be frozen for 10 years for passenger vehicles traveling less than 30 miles on the turnpike with an EZ Pass, and toll hikes for longer trips and trucks would be capped at the rate of inflation, which is less than prior toll increases, including last year’s 10-percent jump.

Also, Kasich said he isn’t expecting any layoffs of the 1,000 turnpike workers.

But Ohio Democrats were quick to criticize Kasich’s plan.

The plan would use most of the money raised for work in the northern part of Ohio while programs in the southern portion of the state would have work done with money collected from the state’s gas tax.

State Rep. Ronald Gerberry of Austintown, D-59th, said the turnpike is the best “operated highway in the country” so why is Kasich “trying to fix something that works? I guess the answer is because there’s a pot of gold.”

The plan, Gerberry said, would allow Kasich to provide money to communities for road improvements as a way to help him get re-elected in 2014.

He called the plan “a shell game,” and contended the northern part of the state won’t see a benefit from this.

“What about my piece of the action for all my gas tax I send in now?” Gerberry asked.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman Chris Redfern called the plan a “cocamamie idea,” and that Kasich will use the money for “a slush fund for the governor’s re-election bid.”

And U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Niles, D-17th, said the plan will jeopardize the future of “one of Ohio’s most reliable and best-maintained roads.”

“This is not the time to advance policies that will raise tolls and yet decrease funding for maintenance and infrastructure,” the congressman said. “What the governor wants will create a roadblock for Ohio’s economy and hurt Ohio families who rely on the turnpike for business and personal travel.”

Cleveland-area Congresswoman Marcia Fudge, D-11th, agreed. She and Ryan noted that the plan places the turnpike under the control of the Ohio Department of Transportation, enabling the state to reallocate maintenance and infrastructure funds away from Northern Ohio to fund projects around the state.

Currently, turnpike funds must be spent within a mile of the roadway.

In addition, they said, the plan is a concern for companies behind the economic rebound across the northern tier of the state, which use the roadway daily. The risk of higher taxes and decreased safety and maintenance on the turnpike will affect auto manufacturing, advanced engineering and shale gas development, and jeopardize the state’s ability to create economic development opportunities, they said.

When asked to refute the Democrats’ criticism, Kasich was dismissive.

“That’s politics, those are naysayers and I don’t pay attention to that,” he said.

Over the next six years, 65,000 jobs would be created, Kasich said.

Kasich and Jerry Wray, director of the Ohio Department of Transportation, said this plan would move up projects that weren’t going to be funded for 20 to 25 years.

For example, an $80 million project on Interstate 80 between the Interstate 680 connector near state Route 46 in Austintown, going east to the state Route 11 split in Liberty, will start in 2015. It was slated to start in 2027.

The project, which will take two to three years to complete, would make that six-mile stretch three lanes instead of two, said Anthony M. Urankar, ODOT’s District 4 deputy director.

“If we don’t do it, tolls will go up higher than we’re proposing and projects won’t get done,” Kasich said of his plan. “...Sometimes politics gets in the way of their thinking.”

The Teamsters Local 436, which represents 688 turnpike employees, supports the plan. Also, several state organizations including the Ohio Trucking Association, the Ohio Contractors Association, and the Operating Engineers of Ohio praised Kasich for the proposal.


Comments

1chuck_carney(499 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

Governor Kasich should be commended for using the money funded by the turnpike to "stimulate" Ohio's eonomy. The projects will create jobs, jobs for all of us aroung the pike.

Timmie Ryan said Obama's stimulus first plan was too small and he wanted to have another round of stimulus money.

So it's fine when Obama borrows to stimulate the economyt, but not Kasich.

WHERE ARE THE TRADE UNIONS TO SUPPORT THIS PLAN FOR JOBS.

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2UsuallyBlunt(105 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

chuck_carney...it looks like the Teamsters and the Operating Engineers ARE on board.

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3glbtactivist(250 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

Wouldn't you know that a failed wall street con-man like Kasich would propose pulling a Bain on our turnpike. Borrow every dime you can on the asset. Spend it on anything but the asset ( the turnpike ). And then let the turnpike die.

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4Towmater(2 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

Governor Kasich,
Please stop proposing ideas that would help the northern part of the state escape from the decline and dépression we've been in for the last half century. We are quite happy to continue to wallow in the dreary, miserable and pessimistic miasma that we've created for ourselves. Please leave us alone.
Sincerely,
Ohio Democrats

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5valleyred(1097 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

How dare Governor Kasich do his job, clean up the mess left by Taft and Strickland, AND benefit the northern Ohio counties that helped Obama win reelection.

The audacity of Kasich!

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6redvert(2064 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

So the libitards in the valley cried when Kasich considered leasing the turnpike due to financial issues. Now they whine because he considers something that would create jobs in Ohio. Of course the libitards would be swooning if obowser suggested the same thing.

And after listening to to your liberal reps offer their alternative ideas....oh, they didn't have any other ideas did they? You must be so proud of these "endorsed democrats."

How do you deal with the fact that some labor unions approve of his recommendation? Gonna have to work on that aren't you?

Nothing has changed in the mentality around the valley in the last 50-60 years, of course it has worked so well hasn't it.? Ytown, AKA "the armpit of Ohio"

Must say, quite entertaining!!!

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7AnotherAverageCitizen(1174 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

""The proposal, unveiled Thursday, would allow the state to borrow $1.5 billion, leveraging turnpike tolls, with Kasich saying another $1.5 billion could be matched from federal and local funds.""

So kasich is using money we don't have, and our children will be paying for todays projects for years to come. 1.5 billion COULD be matched from other funds.

So kasich has repubs believing he balances the budget by using money from the future and other govt's money. No wonder lehman Bros went broke. I see in the near future repubs saying the Turnpike is broke because the employess make too much money.

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8topsailwatch(64 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

Air head Gerberry just hates to see someone from a different party do something good for the whole state. He has been sucking from the public troft for so long without accomplishing anything that he is suspicious of everyone and doesn't have the people of the state in mind to benefit from a great program.

Our area had a chance to remove him from office, but we keep sending back the same old retreads. We need someone with new ideas that will work for the good of our people.

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9youngspartanrepublican(92 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

I think Gerberry is term-limited in 2014. He came to my AP government class in high school and told us that once he got down there he "just couldn't stay away from it" so that's why after every time he was term-limited, he found something else to milk the public tax dollar. Blame the citizens. He was elected. I sure as hell didn't vote for him.

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10maxborenstein(27 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

All tolls should be eliminated, and increase the gas tax instead. Tolls lead to smaller traffic counts, and less development at interchanges as compared to freeways. Economics of toll avoidance will show less tolls being collected, greater use (and truck-traffic damage) of US-30, SR-2, I-76 W of I-80, I-80 E of I-76, US-422, US-20, and other parallel alternatives.

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11ytownredux(117 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

I think we have Ohio politics as usual, and this is one that actually both sides can win on. The Republicans have a point that this can create jobs and better infrastructure in the area, and that should be looked at.

However the Democrats have some valid concerns. The most important sentence in this article is, "Currently, turnpike funds must be spent within a mile of the roadway." Meaning that it is not the case in Kasich's plan. If he put that into the deal, where he can borrow the money from the turnpike to be used as the current law states, within a mile of the turnpike, it could be a good idea, but ONLY with that provision.

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12youngspartanrepublican(92 comments)posted 1 year, 9 months ago

With large Republican majorities in the legislature, the Dems will have no choice but to go along with Kasich. They can probably just change the rules about turnpike funding.

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