Tuesday, June 29, 2004

State gasoline tax goes up 2 cents a gallon this week

The Associated Press

COLUMBUS - After paying $2 for a gallon of gas, what's another 2 cents?

The state gasoline tax increases by 2 cents a gallon Thursday, part of a three-year plan to pump millions of dollars into road construction projects.

The increase is expected to bring in an additional $120 million for use on highway construction projects. Lawmakers approved a 6-cent increase last year spread over three years.

Motorists now will pay a total of 44.4 cents a gallon in taxes - 26 to the state and 18.4 cents to the federal government.

Next year's increase could be eliminated if Ohio's share of the money it receives from the federal gas tax goes up. Ohio gets back about 90 cents of every $1 it sends to Washington.

Rep. Tim Grendell tried unsuccessfully to delay this year's gas-tax increase, arguing it will hurt the economy and that the Ohio Department of Transportation hasn't done enough to cut costs.

"When state government has made itself more efficient, and eliminated some of the waste and abuse in the process, it will find more money to do a lot of things," said Grendell, a Chesterland Republican. "Instead, Columbus continues to take the easy way out, reaching into taxpayers' pockets for more money."

The state believes the extra money will outweigh the benefits of delaying the increase, said ODOT spokesman Brian Cunningham.

"While we understand gas prices have been increasing, the good that that additional revenue will provide will help to improve the economic development opportunities throughout the state, help increase mobility and improve safety," he said.

Ohioans paid a record average of $1.95 per gallon for self-serve, regular gasoline last month, with some paying more than $2 a gallon for the first time.

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