ROADS/BRIDGES: Ohio gets funding bill signed, while Idaho’s struggles persist

The two states in disparate financial situations, striving toward the common goal of infrastructure improvement.

April 02, 2015

Ohio Governor John Kasich this week signed a multi-billion dollar transportation budget that is intended to spur hiring, increase driver safety measures and programs, and allow new payment options for license renewals. A blueprint for the next two fiscal years, the bill also earmarks monies for local governments and public transit.

The state’s geographic position was of significant import in the design and ratification of the bill. Couched in the Midwest, centrally within the region, the state functions as a throughway for many manufacturers who know they can transport their goods using the state’s strong highway system.

ODOT director Jerery Wray was quoted as saying, “We know what the resources are now, [and] our job is to maximize results.”

Key provisions of the bill include:

  • $7.06 billion for highway construction and maintenance, which is expected to pay for 96,000 jobs over the next two years, and nearly $6 billion of which will be used by ODOT on 1,600 highway construction and maintenance projects;
  • $600 million for local government use on road and bridge improvements;
  • An additional million over the previous budget toward support of public transportation;
  • The Bureau of Motor Vehicles will accept credit and debit cards by July 2016;
  • The bill will require more training and testing for first-time drivers, regardless of age; and
  • Authorization for the BMV to develop advanced driver-training courses and classes that use driving simulators. Department of Public Safety Director John Born said the effort would be the most comprehensive driver safety push ever for Ohio.

Such success strikes a stark contrast to the struggles persisting in the Idaho legislature, where what has been characterized as an ambitious tax bill was quashed recently in the state Senate.

Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) director Brian Ness said not doing enough now simply means the issue will have to be redressed next year, a familiar refrain that has had federal echoes over the last several months. “Right now, we need $262 million more a year to keep the existing infrastructure in the condition that it’s in right now,” Ness said. “The further away we are from the $262 million, the sooner we’ll be right back here doing it again.”

Of the bill’s yet pending in the legislature, one would derive funding from the state’s general fund—the same source that funds public programs such as education; but the likelihood of that is nigh toward nil, following a recent State of the State Address given my Governor Butch Otter.

“I will not entertain proposals aimed at competing for general fund tax dollars with education and our other required public programs or services,” Otter said with politicaly unique finality.

Concerns continue to roil in the state legislature, despite political leaders earlier declaration that transportation funding was the primary goal of the present Congressional session. With next year being an election year, the time would seem to be now to get tax increases of reform accomplished, as such measures rarely if ever see fruition alongside an election.

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