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Kasich’s turnpike plan merits bipartisan consideration



Published: Sun, December 16, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

We were, frankly, surprised by the scope of Gov. John Kasich’s proposal to use the Ohio Turnpike as collateral for raising more than $1 billion for highway construction projects, most of which would finance projects in Ohio’s northern tier.

Our fear had been that Kasich would pursue a long-term lease of the turnpike to private investors. That plan could have provided the state with a larger pool of cash, but at too high a cost. In the six years since Indiana leased its turnpike to a consortium of foreign investors, tolls for automobiles have doubled and tolls for trucks have more than doubled.

Kasich’s plan is not a lease, it is a mortgage. More importantly, it preserves the Turnpike Commission as an independent entity that will retain responsibility for oversight of operations.

Kasich’s plan is not perfect. At its heart, it is still a scheme that diverts some of the receipts from the toll road to unrelated uses. Specifically, a portion of the tolls will be used to retire a debt of about $1.5 billion that will be spent on road projects not directly tied to the turnpike.

The hidden tax

The state will be taxing people who use the turnpike — some of them Ohioans, many of them not — to pay for Ohio’s roads and bridges. The best that can be said for that is that governments do it all the time. “Sin taxes” take money from smokers and drinkers to pay for athletic facilities that the majority of those smokers and drinkers will never use, for instance. Turnpike customers will now be among those paying penance even though traveling on the turnpike violates no commandments that we know of.

Nonetheless, the governor’s proposal deserves serious consideration on both sides of the aisle. Its attributes may outweigh its faults.

It caps toll increases at the inflation rate, meaning that motorists will not see any Indiana-like explosion in costs. And pouring at least $1 billion into short-term road construction will provide a quick boost for the economy. Other projects over the years will contribute to long-term economic development.

However, in this day, local governments are going to be hard-pressed to come up with a local match for state and federal highway dollars.

And there is a potential for shifting money that the northern tier is entitled to from the state’s gasoline tax to southern counties on the grounds that the north is enjoying a windfall from the turnpike fund. It will be up to local senators and representatives to be vigilant.


Comments

1ulistenup(95 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

NoBS,

Why such a parochial view of revenue from "our turnpike."

The turnpike is a state asset that exists for the benefit of all Ohioans, not just those in the north.

Kasich's plan is a very reasonable one for the future "leveraged" use of the turnpike.

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2chuck_carney(499 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

Bravo to the Editorial Board for keeping an open mind as to Kasich's plan. Even in light of the abhorence that Gerberry, Hagan, timmie ryan, Strickland et al possess to any Kasich proposal.

Even Interesting that the Dem Mayor Jackson of Cleveland is backing the proposed turnpike plan

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3ytownredux(117 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

Toycannon, I am trying to be more sympathetic to yours and others views lately, but most of what NoBS says is true. I have mentioned this on another thread about this as well. While I am not entirely opposed to Kasich's plan, the fact is that current law states that all monies generated must be used within 1 mile of the turnpike. That is a good law and one that needs to be put into Kasich's plan. I wouldn't mind some redistribution, say 20% for outside road/bridge projects and 80% within 1 mile of turnpike.

This is a good job creating solution, and can work, but there has to be strict guidelines in place to ensure that it does not bankrupt the system, nor can more than a large percentage of funds be used more than the 1 mile mark from the Turnpike.

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4Education_Voter(840 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

The people of northern Ohio PAID for the turnpike through the tolls we paid over the years. Those tolls were then kept to ensure maintenance.

NoBS is right. Gov. Kasich hires consultants and bureacrats like that's his plan to increase the population of Columbus.

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5AnotherAverageCitizen(1174 comments)posted 1 year, 7 months ago

If a Dem is in office and comes up with a plan basically to borrow money, that we and our kids will be paying for it in future years, the repubs would never go for it. However, this time the narrow sighted repubs follow kasich and his bad idea.
The Fed Govt spent Billions in shovel ready projects and most Repubs all cry it didn't help. It was a bandaid on the Bleeding economy. So now kasich is spending money he does not have, and you folks defend him.

kasich wants to change rules already set in place to use money for outside 1 mile of the turnpike. All while making another rulle saying future toll increases won't be like Indiana's. Who's to say that rule would stay in place.

Again kasich claims to balance the budget and spend money he doesn't have. The next Gov will have to fund his current projects. When the next Dem Gov is in office, the Repubs will say the Union is destroying the Turnpike budget. All while we know it is kasich's fault.

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