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Turnpike legislation, transportation budget align with Farm Bureau policy
By Brandon Kern
As the combined turnpike legislation and transportation budget head to the Governor for his signature, lets take a look back at the success we have had in working with lawmakers throughout the process to include provisions addressing concerns raised by Farm Bureau members during policy development.
Turnpike Proposal and HB 51
Farm Bureau members from northern Ohio were relieved in December when Gov. John Kasich announced his plan to generate up to $3 billion for highway road construction without privatizing the Ohio Turnpike, after much speculation that it might be leased. Farm Bureau has a long standing policy against privatizing the Turnpike, and many members living near it worked together to take action against the possibility.
The Kasich proposal would raise $1.5 billion in new funds for Ohio highways from bonds issued by the Ohio Turnpike Commission and backed by future toll revenues. It is also expected that up to an additional $1.5 billion could be generated from matching local and federal funds accounting for a $3 billion potential investment into road and infrastructure repairs and construction.
HB 51 was introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives in February to implement Gov. Kasich’s Turnpike plan. After analysis, it was decided that Farm Bureau policy supports HB 51 and that leveraging the Turnpike as proposed provides a viable option for moving needed infrastructure projects forward while ensuring accountability to citizens and local businesses.
Senate’s Turnpike and budget provisions
After the House passed HB 51 (the turnpike proposal) and HB 35 (the transportation biennium budget), the Senate Transportation Committee combined them and sent the resulting bill to conference committee where differences with the House version were worked out. Ohio Farm Bureau lobbied for several changes the Senate made to the bill including:
- Requiring at least 90 percent of Turnpike bond revenue be spent on road and bridge projects within 75 miles of the Turnpike;
- Removal of a provision to permit the director of transportation to charge new access permit processing fees;
- Removal of a provision to increase the maximum overall gross vehicle weight from 80,000 to 90,000 pounds on state highways because of concern that county and township roads carrying traffic from state highways would be negatively impacted; and
- Inclusion of OFBF requested language to limit the scope of fees that landowners could incur during a proceeding to vacate a public road.
The House and Senate have now accepted the conference report and the bill is on its way to the Governor for his signature.
Brandon Kern is Ohio Farm Bureau's director of state policy.