COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) A House-Senate committee on March 27 approved Gov. Ted Strickland’s $7.8 billion transportation budget for the next two years after agreeing that any new tax money raised when an exemption on gasoline expires June 30 will go into the state’s general revenue fund.
Strickland, a Democrat, had asked lawmakers to ensure that money from collections of the state’s commercial activities tax go to schools and local governments, and placing it in the general revenue fund will allow it to be directed to those areas. Petroleum products were exempt from the tax during its first two years.
Republican lawmakers had argued that they were required to spend any money raised by a gasoline tax on road construction. However, Strickland had assured them the change was constitutional, said Rep. Matthew Dolan, a suburban Cleveland Republican and chairman of the joint committee that met for about an hour to resolve differences in the House and Senate versions of the bill.
The bill now goes back to both chambers, where votes are expected April 4, then on to Strickland.
The committee kept a Senate provision that would require the completion of projects rated with highest priority by a committee of elected officials and others. Strickland had asked for more leeway in setting priorities, but Republicans said he didn’t need a change in law to do that.
An amendment by Rep. Robert Hagan, a Youngstown Democrat, that would have removed the provision failed by a 4-2 party-line vote.
Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey said the governor hadn’t decided whether to veto the provision and would review it once lawmakers are done.