Ditzler to state lawmakers: Get some guts

Published: Fri, February 24, 2017 @ 12:05 a.m.

Ditzler: State should increase gasoline tax

By Peter H. Milliken



Mahoning County officials expressed a variety of opinions on a state legislative proposal to allow county commissioners to enact a $5 surcharge on Ohio license plates to fund transportation improvement efforts.

The proposal was made Tuesday by the Ohio House of Representatives Finance Committee, whose chairman is state Rep. Ryan Smith.

“The [state] Legislature has to get some guts; and they have to increase the gasoline tax to distribute back to the county engineers” money for road and bridge maintenance, said David Ditzler, chairman of the Mahoning County commissioners.

“They have to do something proactively to assist with our crumbling infrastructure,” he added.

Instead of proposing a gasoline-tax increase, the legislators have most recently proposed to let county commissioners enact the $5 county license-plate fee, he said.

The legislators have proposed to “push it down on the local government for us to take a vote to impose a tax that is their responsibility,” Ditzler told the audience at Thursday’s county commissioners meeting.

“You can’t continue to push the burden down onto the cities, the villages and the townships and the counties from the state level,” he said.

Ditzler said he’d have to discuss the matter with county Engineer Patrick Ginnetti before he could decide whether to vote for a $5-per-vehicle-per-year license surcharge, assuming this proposal passes the Legislature.

Ginnetti estimated the $5 fee would generate about $1.3 million a year.

“It would certainly help us, but it’s not going to fix everything – not even close,” Ginnetti said.

“Something needs to change, whether they raise it [the gas tax] or change the distribution of the gas tax or add this $5 permissive fee to the counties,” Ginnetti said.

The extra $1.3 million would allow the county to pave 13 additional miles of county roads annually beyond the 15 to 20 miles it now paves each year under the state-funded paving program, Ginnetti said.

The county share of gasoline-tax revenue is divided evenly among Ohio’s 88 counties, regardless of their size.

With 485 miles of county roads, Mahoning ranks fifth in the state in road mileage, but it gets the same $2 million a year in gas-tax revenue as all the other counties, Ginnetti said.

“The only way that I would be comfortable in imposing that additional fee is that money has to 100 percent be dedicated to fixing roads in Mahoning County,” Commissioner Anthony Traficanti said of the $5 permissive fee.

Commissioner Carol Rimedio-Righetti said she thinks the commissioners need more information before they enact additional taxes or fees.

“You have to bring the people in and have town-hall meetings and ask the people what they think,” she said.

Allowing county commissioners to enact a $5 license tax was proposed by the County Engineers Association of Ohio, whose members are responsible for maintaining 26,859 bridges and 29,088 miles of roads.

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