The Ohio Senate today tweaked Governor Kasich’s turnpike proposal, requiring any funds generated by turnpike bonds to be spent in Northern Ohio while freezing toll rates in statute. The move could lead to a Kasich veto and could be a further sign of what appears to be an increasingly chilly relationship between the Governor and leaders of his own party.
The Senate Transportation Committee adopted amendments to House Bill 51 that would require 90 percent of the proceeds of borrowing against future turnpike tolls to be spent within 75 miles of the Ohio Turnpike. Another amendment locks in current toll rates for short trips using E-ZPass. Both are measures the Kasich administration originally promised but later rejected as hampering the state’s ability to maximize bond proceeds.
The move does not mean the issue is settled. Because the Turnpike amendments were also incorporated into the two-year budget for transportation, the Governor will be able to use his line-item veto authority – reserved for budget bills – to remove them.
But forcing the Governor to veto the amendments puts Kasich in the uncomfortable position of making an about-face on his early promises to Northern Ohio. Because the changes were approved by a committee that is firmly controlled by members of his own party, the move suggests that the Governor is on thin ice with legislative Republicans — something that’s already becoming clear as GOP members buck his proposals for Medicaid, sales tax expansion and taxing oil and gas extraction.