COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The multi-billion-dollar transportation budget — which addresses rail safety and public transportation — cleared the Ohio Senate floor Thursday with all “yea” votes but was held in the Ohio House, receiving 79 “nay” votes.
After senators made several amendments to the transportation budget, some lawmakers are not seeing eye-to-eye and said they need more time to go over the massive spending plan. The house and senate have yet to agree on a billion-dollar rural highway general revenue fund.
“I have a great deal of concern about general revenue funds of this scope being spent in the transportation budget,” Senate President Matt Huffman (R-Lima) said.
Huffman said the billion-dollar fund would only benefit a few projects and is something the state can’t afford to do as he looks ahead to other proposals.
“There are various providers who want Medicaid increases, there are folks who want to reduce the income tax or eliminate it — all of that costs money,” Huffman. “And to take these billion dollars now for just these projects, or unknown projects, and take that all out of the discussion for the June budget, we can’t do that in my mind.”
Speaker of the House Jason Stephens (R-Kitts Hill) said, however, he feels it would benefit all but eight counties, that it’s important to have that billion-dollar fund, and he does not want to settle for a smaller price tag.
“We should have more,” Stephens said. “It’s very important, and it’s not like it’s wasteful. It’s a wise investment in the future of Ohio and it’s a fair debate. But we actually have used general fund money before in the transportation budget, so it’s not a new thing, it’s just got maybe a couple more commas and zeros.”
The transportation budget does have several agreeable parts, like rail safety provisions to help ensure no community has to endure what East Palestine is going through.
“I have not seen us prioritize safety like this transportation budget does, and it really does work to build strong communities for each of our communities across the state of Ohio,” Senate Minority Leader Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) said.
The budget also heavily invests in road slip repairs, addresses gas tax revenue, and puts an emphasis on public transportation.
“Not only to get people to and from their job, around their communities, kids to schools, our college students transported, but we also need to look at those areas that are left out,” Antonio said.
Lawmakers will come to the table in closed-door meetings to try and reach a compromise, and Stephens said he hopes to vote on the transportation budget again Tuesday.