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Ohio Lawmaker Proposes Quadrupling Car Registration Costs and a Gas-Tax Offset

gas pump
Opposition to Coley's plan says that it will increase the cost of registering a car by 300%.

Editor's note: The original headline on this story underestimated the increase in the registration fee.

Lawmakers have been struggling with a way to pay for road construction without raising the gas tax, and that revenue has been falling as more fuel efficient cars are manufactured.

One of the tax's sponsors suggests he has a creative approach, but a critic says it is excessive.

The gas tax brings in $1.9 billion a year. Republican Sen. Bill Coley of Cincinnati is pushing a two-pronged approach: raising the annual passenger car registration from $34.50 to $140  and refunding registered owners what they pay in gas taxes each time they fill up. Coley says a person driving an older, less-efficient car will like the long-term savings.

“I’s going to cost him a little bit, but saving 28 cents a gallon? That’s going to be a nice thing for him.”

Phil Cole with the Ohio Association of Community Action Agencies says that’ll be difficult for the low-income Ohioans he works to help.

“That’s over a 300 percent increase in the cost of registering a car. So that’s hard for anybody.”

Coley said the flat fee for car registration wouldn’t be based on income, but he’s not opposed to working out payment plans.  And Coley says the registration and refund system would replace the $1.9 billion brought in each year from the gas tax. 

He says the change will bring in a stable stream of revenue. 

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.