November 24, 2014

Elyria
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Dems accuse Gov. Kasich of welshing on Turnpike promise

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — State Rep. Gayle Manning said she plans to look into whether key promises made by Gov. John Kasich in December are missing from a bill authorizing the sale of $1.5 billion in bonds that are backed by Ohio Turnpike tolls with the money earmarked for road repairs.

Manning

“I certainly trust my governor but I like to double-check everything to make sure things are done correctly, and I will be doing that,” said, Manning, R-North Ridgeville, who serves as chair of the Ohio Senate Standing Committee on Transportation, a post she was named to last month by Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina.

In the post, Manning oversees the direction of state funds for construction and improvement of Ohio roads and highways.

“I’m naturally concerned,” Manning said about the issue. “As we all know, (Ohioans have) been paying for this road for 60 years.”

On Monday, state Rep. Alicia Reece, D-Cincinnati, said House Democrats have submitted amendments that would ensure the key provisions were in the bond sale bill.

Democrats contend the bill as worded now excludes a pledge made by the Republican Kasich in December that 90 percent of the proceeds of the projected sale of $1.5 billion in bonds would be used for roadwork in northern Ohio.

When Kasich unveiled his plans for the future of the 241-mile Turnpike in December, he proposed the $1.5 billion bond sale as part of a $3 billion package of state highway and road projects that would generate an equal $1.5 billion through matching local and federal funds.

The $1.5 billion to be raised via bond sales would be backed by the state through future toll revenues.

The plan was welcomed by both political sides of the statehouse for maintaining the toll road as a state-owned entity instead of privatizing it as was originally discussed.

Democrats in the Oho House also contend the bill makes no mention of Kasich’s promise to freeze turnpike toll rates for
10 years for drivers using the EZ PASS.

Tolls for those not buying the EZ PASS would rise with the rate of inflation, according to the plan announced by Kasich in December.

Manning said she was concerned that toll rates would be controlled in the future.

“I don’t want to raise rates too much, Manning said. “They have gone up more than at the rate of inflation over the years.”

Manning said she also planned to look into whether the measure could contain guarantees of percentages of bond sale revenue for road projects in northern Ohio.

“My understanding is that there may be an issue of constitutionality in terms of including percentages,” Manning said. “We may not be able to fix it at a certain point. I too want to make sure that most of that money stays in northern Ohio, too.”

The Ohio Senate is expected to begin informal hearings on the Turnpike bill today, Manning said.

Steve Faulkner, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Transportation, said Kasich intends to keep his promises regarding the Turnpike, but noted that setting percentages and fixed dollar amounts may jeopardize flexibility.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-714 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.