Mahoning Co. commissioners not happy with state funding proposals

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – A day after attending a Senate Transportation Committee hearing in Columbus, Mahoning County Engineer Pat Ginnetti isn’t optimistic about finding new ways to pay for local road projects.

Ginnetti told Mahoning County commissioners Thursday about the session where lawmakers were talking about different ways to increase funding.

One way is to increase the state tax on gasoline, which has been 28 cents a gallon for years. Another idea is to increase license plate fees by $5, something Ginnetti supports, though he said it might be hard for those on fixed incomes.

“Nobody is proposing a long-term solution. These are all short-term fixes,” Ginnetti said. “At the same time, the federal and state governments are not giving any more money to the counties.”

One of the ideas being discussed would leave the decision to raise fees up to local county commissioners who could then impose the increase on their own or place a referendum on the ballot for voters. Commissioner Dave Ditzler sees that as passing the buck.

“The state legislative leaders have no guts and no ability to take responsibility for what they are elected to do,” Ditzler said.

Commissioners say while the state has been cutting spending to help local governments, the General Assembly increased what Ohio collects in sales tax by a .25 percent several years ago. It is now 5.75 percent.

“We need to take some of that state sales tax monies back to the local government and mandate that the state be more responsible with their money,” Ditzler said.

Ditzler says he’d like to see a statewide ballot issue that would send a full percent of tax back to local counties, but commissioners admit the idea, as with funding local road work, isn’t likely anytime soon.