COLUMBUS (WDTN) – According to the group MOVE Ohio, the State spends 67 cents per capita on public transportation; while Pennsylvania spends more than $86 per capita.
Even Michigan out spends Ohio when it comes to public transportation and that didn’t sit well with some lawmakers who say, that needs to change.
Funding for public transit here in Ohio has been neglected for years, according to Stu Nicholson with MOVE Ohio.
“We are outspent by every one of our neighboring states on public transportation,” said Nicholson.
Neighboring Kentucky spends just a few cents more, but the others are several to dozens of dollars higher in spending.
As an example of State spending; last year $20 million was allocated for the Statehouse parking garage as a matter of public safety.
“That’s over double what we put into all of Ohio’s transit systems statewide,” said Akshai Singh, a union organizer in the transportation sector.
The funding for public transit in Ohio was roughly $6 million spread out across the state in the last operating budget.
Singh and Nicholson say this is a matter of priorities.
“It’s got to be viewed by the governor and the state legislature as more than just a human services issue,” said Nicholson. “Public transit needs to be at the big-boys table, it has to be at the big-boys table.”
Right now it clearly is not, and Singh says while people living in Columbus have not seen a drop off in services; others haven’t been so lucky.
“We are seeing expansion of service here; we have seen contraction of service pretty much everywhere else,” said Singh.
As a result State Representatives Michael Skindell and Terrence Upchurch, both Democrats, announced a bill that would increase the state’s investment in public transit from $6 million to $150 million using a mix of state general revenue funds and federal flex dollars.
They say, increasing investment in public transit will help the economy by helping employers connect with a qualified workforce that has a reliable mode of transportation to and from their job.
The topic of an increase to the gas tax did come up during their news conference, but both lawmakers demurred when pushed to provide details on what kind of increase they would be comfortable supporting.
They also made it clear that this bill has nothing to do with gas tax money revenues.
MOVE Ohio on the other hand did talk about the gas tax and argues that the state constitution can be interpreted in a way that would allow revenue to be used on public transit.
That is a debate that happens in almost every General Assembly, according to Skindell.