State Rep. Matt Lundy (D-57) responded to Gov. Kasich’s plan to forego privatization of the Ohio Turnpike today and instead issue $1.5 million in new bonds for road, bridge and waterway projects, primarily in northern Ohio.
Gov. John Kasich wants to issue $1.5 billion in new bonds through the Ohio Turnpike for road, bridge and waterway projects, mostly in northern Ohio, he announced at a press conference Dec. 13.
Lundy had been a vocal opponent of privatizing the toll road.
“I am pleased the governor realized his extreme idea to privatize the Turnpike was not reasonable or responsible,” Lundy said. “I don't believe taxpayers want us to be so quick to add $1.5 billion dollars in new debt that our children will be forced to pay long after the governor is gone.”
Lundy did not provide support for the new plan, however.
“Today, Gov. Kasich unveiled his plan to bond against future Turnpike revenue,” he said. “This plan is fiscally irresponsible, and threatens jobs and communities along the Ohio Turnpike for partisan, political gain. Legislative leaders and advocates for the Turnpike will work to protect the communities along this vital road and hold the Governor accountable.”
He wasn’t the only Lorain County representative to criticize Kasich’s new plan of issuing bonds. State Representative Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) expressed “grave concerns.”
“I applaud the Governor’s decision to forego privatizing one of the largest public works projects in our state’s history, and ensuring that the benefits provided by the Turnpike continue to be enjoyed by the people of this state,” Ramos said. “However, I have grave concerns over the idea of issuing bonds to borrow against the turnpike and using funds generated by the turnpike to pay for projects elsewhere. I also have serious concerns over any raise in toll rates. The turnpike is a vital transportation structure for people and for businesses in our area.”
A recent Ohio Supreme Court ruling, determined that approximately $140 million in annual CAT tax revenue must be used for highway transportation projects not the General Fund. Lundy said this revenue should be accounted for before increasing tolls hurting the communities and businesses the 241-mile turnpike helps to support.
“Let’s start with the $140-million from fuel taxes the court said must be used on road projects and not used in the general revenue fund,” Lundy said. “This revenue will be available and won’t result in adding more debt or raising tolls. If the plan moves forward, 100-percent should be invested in infrastructure only in the counties of the Turnpike corridor. The Turnpike is not owned by the governor. It belongs to the people of Ohio. Sadly, he hasn't been a good listener. I hope he'll take the time to listen to the people before racing to implement his plan.”
The money will come from existing turnpike toll revenue, which is sufficient to cover existing turnpike debt and new debt of at least $1 billion, according to Ohio Department of Transportation director Jerry Wray, Crains Cleveland Business reported.