Why is John Kasich trying to lease the Ohio Turnpike?
The answer is a lack of courage.
Ohio gets money to build and repair roads from the state tax on gasoline. For every gallon of gas sold, the state gets 28 cents.
That figure has not increased since July 1, 2005.
But a faltering economy, high gas prices, and more fuel-efficient vehicles mean less gasoline sold, and less gas tax revenue.
While gas tax revenues are down, the costs of building and repairing roads continues to climb. The same amount of money builds fewer miles of road.
The simple solution is to raise the gas tax a few cents.
But that would take political courage. And who is courageous in Columbus? As soon as you say the words “tax increase,” politicians run and hide to another planet.
Leasing the turnpike is a way to get money that doesn’t raise taxes. It takes less political courage to give up control of a state asset like our great Ohio Turnpike than to raise the gasoline tax.
No matter what kind of “spin” Kasich’s minions put on a lease, it’s still a bad decision for Ohio, and Northwest Ohio in particular.
Money from a lease will come in in relatively small amounts over the next few years, perhaps not enough to make much of a difference.
Kasich has said in the past a lease could be written to limit toll hikes. But recently, he backed away from that, saying that limiting possible toll hikes could reduce what the state could get for the toll road in a lease.
And it still means northern Ohioans who drive the Turnpike will pay more toward statewide infrastructure improvements than the rest of the state. If more money is needed, all Ohioans should pay more; the burden shouldn’t fall on northern Ohio Turnpike drivers.
If explained properly, Ohioans will understand why the gasoline tax must be raised. They may not enthusiastically support the measure, but they’ll go along with it, because they will know it’s best for Ohio.
Leasing the turnpike? This reeks of a desperate move by weak politicians. It’s like a farmer selling his seed corn.
It may look like a simple idea to a politician in Columbus, but it won’t look so good in the harsh light in the future of the Great State of Ohio.