By Liz Sidoti
The Associated Press
COLUMBUS - Ohio residents would pick up a larger portion of the cost for law enforcement on Ohio's highways under a bill that would shift funding from the gas tax to increased vehicle fees.
Now out-of-staters who fill their gasoline tanks in Ohio help pay for the State Highway Patrol.
A proposal in Gov. Bob Taft's transportation budget, which is up for a vote today in the House finance committee, would stop funding the patrol with the gas tax, which residents and nonresidents pay.
Instead, the patrol would receive money from fees on motor vehicle registrations, driver's licenses and titles, which are paid for mostly by Ohioans.
The Ohio State Troopers Association says it would prefer that the gas tax continue to pay for the patrol.
"The gas tax has worked for 70 years, and it's the fairest way of funding us," said Dennis Gorski, president of the troopers' union. "Since we're out on the highways, we do serve other people from across the United States, and they should pay their fair share of us."
The shuffle would free up gas tax money for cities, villages, townships and counties for road and bridge projects.
The bill also calls for all drivers to pay six cents more for a gallon of gas - an increase of two cents a year for three years - to generate another $402 million in new transportation money once the phase in is complete. The current tax is 22 cents per gallon.
The patrol, with 2,670 full-time employees that include 1,523 uniformed troopers, is to get about $180 million of its $200 million annual budget from the gas tax this year.
The remainder of the money comes from truck inspection fees and other services.
Taft's original proposal called for a $15 increase in title fees, and $5 increases in drivers' licenses and vehicle registrations to generate about $177 million.
However, a House subcommittee sent the House Finance Committee a bill that called for $8 increases in title fees and vehicle registrations and a $10 increase in drivers' licenses to raise about $182 million annually - about $3 million less than what the patrol is to get next year from the gas tax. The bill has yet to go through the Senate.
Lt. Rick Frambo, a patrol spokesman, said the agency is most concerned about having a constant funding source.
"We can't be tied to the ups and downs of the economy," he said. "People are always going to have to register vehicles and get licenses so, obviously, we think of that as a dedicated funding source."
Rep. Ed Jerse, a Democrat from Euclid, said he is satisfied that increased fees will fund the patrol adequately.
TOP LOCAL STORIES
Prosecutor gave to Deters campaign
Demolition begins on historic church
Cincinnati library drops in circulation
Erpenbeck bill to die without vote
Poll: Ohio voters don't like Springer
LAURA PULFER COLUMN
PULFER: E-mail prank dumb, but is it criminal?
$10M gift will help build UC sports complex
Airline service at Lunken in holding pattern
Northgate pedestrian bridge goes unused
Woodward High design goes 'corporate'
AROUND THE TRISTATE
Tristate A.M. Report
Photo: Dance workshop
Obituary: Cynthia Rankin, cancer counselor
Good News: Girl Scouts serving food in city park
Retiring superintendent rehired
Fairfield bans paid, unlicensed massages
Teen may be tried as adult in rape
Teen fiddler changes group's rhythm
Butler Children Services may ask more
Combs will decide vote on fee
Kindergarten classes shuffled
Ex-church worker accused of taking $200,000
Ohio U. grieves student shot to death
Proposal exchanges gas tax for more vehicle fees
Ohio Bicentennial Moments: Pair became first Common Pleas judges
Tax breaks closer for Newport
Assembly OKs $14 billion state budget
Emergency sirens being tested today
Housing agency hopes design will curtail crime
Man answering door shot in head
Woman shot to death in apartment
Boone development post contested
Coal material spills from pond