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Turnpike Lease Is Target Of Two State Legislators



Two state legislators are preparing legislation that would require four public hearings before the State of Ohio can lease the Ohio Turnpike to a private entity.

However, Ronald V. Gerberry, state representative (D-Youngstown) said the legislation he and Matt Lundy, state representative (D-Avon Lake) are preparing will most likely “never see the light of day.”

That’s because Republicans control the Ohio House and the Senate, plus the governor’s mansion.

“If it did, a large bus would run over it,” he said.

His comment makes reference to John Kasich, Ohio governor, who, soon after he was elected in 2010, told lobbyists and others connected with state government, “we need you on the bus, and if you’re not on the bus, we will run over you with the bus. And I’m not kidding.”

Kasich has proposed possibly leasing the turnpike to a private entity as a way to raise cash for road projects across Ohio.

Gerberry and Lundy are crafting a bill that would require four public hearings, in geographically-diverse areas, within three months of any turnpike privatization plan.

But press reports say Steve Faulkner, press secretary for the Ohio Department of Transportation, said legislating meetings is a ridiculous idea.

Faulkner has said ODOT and KPMG, the consulting firm hired by the state, have held more than 100 meetings with elected officials and business leaders.

“If the governor goes down that road (privatization), the people of northern Ohio should have an opportunity to express their opinions,” Gerberry said.

“People are very passionate about the turnpike. They don’t want to see it sold or leased. We built it, we paid for it, we’re going to keep it.”

He noted the Kasich administration tried to sell five of the state’s prisons, but was only able to sell one.

Like A Business

Gerberry pointed to the Indiana toll road, which was leased to private investors.

“There was an excessive increase in toll rates and excessive deterioration of the road,” he said.

State officials have noted tolls in Indiana were controlled by the state legislature, which failed to increase tolls for a number of years, putting tolls at an artificially low level.

Gerberry called the Ohio Turnpike the finest road in the State of Ohio.

“People say, ‘why can’t government operate like a business?’

“If there is any aspect of state government that operates like a business, it’s the Ohio Turnpike,” he said.

“For 50 or 60 years, it’s been successful.

“The job of government is to provide services.”

The turnpike, he said, provides a good service, while the people who use the road pay for it.

Fight

Gerberry said he is opposed to selling state assets, and will fight a privatization plan.

“We’re going to fight, we’re going to scream, we’re going to yell,” he said.

He said while the legislation he and Lundy propose may not become law, it will create talk in the media and the general public.

He noted if he can keep his 40 Democratic colleagues in the Ohio House together, it would only take 10 Republican votes to stop the governor’s plans.

“I have friends on the other side (Republican side) of the aisle,” he said.

“I will work across the aisle.

“If I can keep our caucus together, all we need are 10 votes– 10 Republican member votes.”



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