Read more below from the Dispatch about why Governor’s new plan for the turnpike is a positive move for Ohio:
The plan Gov. John Kasich released on Thursday about how to make the Ohio Turnpike’s revenues work for Ohio demonstrates his business acumen.
After a consultant’s study showed that leasing the 241-mile turnpike to a private company likely wouldn’t pay enough upfront to make it worthwhile to hand over a state asset, Kasich took a pass.
Instead, the administration has struck an inventive compromise. Under the plan:
• The turnpike will not be leased. It remains in the state’s hands. Employees won’t be laid off. Instead, the state will sell bonds against future turnpike revenues and use those dollars — $1.5 billion from bonds plus $1.5 billion in matching local and federal funds — to speed rebuilding of the turnpike and other roads across Ohio. This $3 billion offsets a $1.6 billion highway-budget deficit, meaning roadwork postponed by the Ohio Department of Transportation for 20 years now gets done in six. And gas-tax hikes, which kill jobs and strain family budgets, don’t happen.
• The Ohio Turnpike Commission remains an independent, public governing body and gains a stronger role, overseeing where bond money is spent and working with ODOT.
• Northern Ohio benefits most. About 90 percent of all turnpike funds will go for roadwork there. And tolls for local drivers are frozen for 10 years, while increases for longer passenger trips and trucks will be capped at the rate of inflation.
• The turnpike becomes a tool to boost Ohio’s economic recovery. The Kasich administration says that investment in highway improvements will create 65,000 new jobs. Good roads also are essential for businesses, especially for those in agriculture, manufacturing and logistics.
• Ohioans get to have their cake and eat it, too. The state Turnpike Commission retains control over rates and service levels, but Ohio gets the benefits of privatizing with cash in hand. As bonds are repaid, additional debt capacity is freed up; Ohio can sell more bonds for more road work.
“It’s stunning to me,” Kasich remarked, “that this hasn’t been done in the last 20, 25, 30 years.”
Good solutions are often simple, but not always obvious. The governor’s plan still will require legislative changes, to allow spending turnpike revenue more than 1 mile from the toll road. But Kasich’s home-equity line for the Ohio turnpike is politically and practically elegant. It calms angst up north, plugs another deficit without raising taxes and is backed by the Turnpike Commission.
You can read the original editorial here.