Funding losses loom over Ohio’s transit agencies
Posted May 30, 2017 in Press Releases
Ohio’s transit system provided 115 million rides in 2013, making it one of the more frequently used systems in the nation. But when it comes to state spending on public transit, Ohio is at the bottom of the barrel— 44 states spend more on a per-person basis. Not only does Ohio underinvest in transit, state policymakers underuse potential revenue from the flexible federal highway funds and fail to fix a looming loss of sales tax revenue to public transit agencies – a loss that could force service cuts and fare hikes.
As the Ohio Senate works on its version of the 2018-2019 state budget, Policy Matters Ohio releases a new handbook that offers a comprehensive overview of Ohio’s public transit funding sources, threats and opportunities.
In its 2018-2019 budget, the Ohio House of Representatives reduced state transit spending to $6.5 million a year, the lowest level since 1976. According to the Ohio Department of Transportation’s 2015 Ohio Statewide Transit Needs study, to meet demand, Ohio should spend $185 million a year on transit by 2025. Including federal dollars, the 2018-2019 state budget plan would spend only $40 million a year.
“People depend on transit to get to work, the grocery store and doctor,” said Victoria Jackson, State Policy Fellow with Policy Matters Ohio. “But Ohio not only underfunds transit, there aren’t proper structures in place to support it.”
Ohio lacks a dedicated revenue source for transit and the state underuses flexible federal highway funding. Moreover, unless policymakers find a solution, in 2019 Ohio’s eight largest transit agencies that levy a local sales tax will lose nearly $40 million as the state moves certain managed care services from the sales tax base into the insurance tax.
“Ohio’s transit system is hugely important to hundreds of thousands of people, but our state policy doesn’t reflect that," said Wendy Patton, Senior Project Coordinator with Policy Matters Ohio. “We hope this handbook serves as a guide for transit workers, riders and advocates who are working to correct years of state neglect.”