Ohio Democrats blast Kasich on turnpike plan

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Ohio House Democrats are calling on Governor John Kasich to stick to his word on plans to borrow $1.5 billion against future Ohio Turnpike revenues to fund road projects.

In a conference call Monday, lawmakers said House Bill 51, the turnpike bill, on their desks does not reflect the guarantees of keeping 90 percent of revenues in northern Ohio, freezing EZ Pass rates and capping tolls at the rate of inflation for 10 years, which Kasich pledged in December.

"Gov. Kasich made a lot of promises during his press conference to announce his turnpike plan, but the legislation that would put this plan in place does nothing to ensure these promises are kept," said State Rep. Alicia Reece of Cincinnati, the ranking member on the Transportation Subcommittee.

State Rep. Kathleen Clyde, who represents part of Portage County, said backtracking on toll rates and revenue allocation would hurt northern Ohioans.

"Northern Ohioans pay for this turnpike. Now Gov. Kasich is moving forward with a plan that could raise tolls on Ohioans and then use these funds to pay for transportation projects in other parts of the state," Clyde said.

When questioned during committee about why H.B. 51 does not include items Kasich announced, Transportation Director Jerry Wray said "It would be foolish to contrive some number or some goal or whatever to say we're going to spend this much money in this place."

State Rep. Matt Lundy of Elyria said he doesn't find the expectation foolish at all.

"That's what the governor has said. He needs to stick to his word and keep his promise," Lundy said.

Several amendments to the turnpike bill are being proposed to include the governor's propositions that didn't make it on paper.

"I would hope that the promises made by the governor would be supported by the legislature," Reece said. "We are presenting Kasich's promises. We're saying, 'Put them in writing.'"

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1127 or kmcdonald@recordpub.com

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