OHIO — This past Monday the County Commissioners Association of Ohio hosted a regional legislative briefing at the Red Pig Inn in Ottawa. State Senator Robert McColley (R-Napoleon) and State Representative Jon Cross (R-Kenton) were in attendance along with and commissioners and representatives from Hardin, Defiance, Fulton, Hancock, Henry, Paulding, Putnam and Van Wert counties.

“A lot is going on right now down at the State level,” said McColley, who spoke first to the gathering of officials. He went on to comment on the growing pains of a new governor’s administration, saying, “Generally speaking, we usually have the transportation budget by the beginning of February. Because we have to pass it by the end of March. This year, we just got [the budget] introduced last Thursday in the House Finance Committee.”

“So actually, the Senate Transportation Committee, which I chair, will have to conduct concurrent hearings with the House, even though we don’t have the bill yet. Just because we want to stay on schedule. We want to make sure we’re up to speed with what the House is doing.”

With this, McColley introduced the topic most on the minds of those present - the DeWine Administration’s proposed $0.18 per gallon increase to the state’s gasoline tax.

“I can tell you, we’ve been looking at the numbers very closely,” he said. “We’ve been looking at the justifications very closely. And, I can tell you there’s been an awful lot of skepticism in the senate as to whether an $0.18 increase is justified.

“That’s not to say that we wouldn’t consider any increase. But, it is to say that there’s going need to be a compelling justification for us to do any sort of increase on the gas tax side. And, that case is going to have to be made pretty strongly as to why we need to do that.”

McColley’s sentiments were echoed by Cross, who further expressed a concern about the pace at which the governor was pushing the issue.

“I’ve never done a fast deal that’s been good for the taxpayers,” Cross said.

Both Cross and McColley also said additional revenue sources need to be explored as well. They identified a possible fee on alternative fuel vehicles, mostly referring to the growing electric car segment, but also referenced Amish buggies as needing to be part of the conversation.