CHICAGO — Ohio senators Wednesday unanimously passed a $7 billion, two-year transportation budget that allows the state to impose tolls to finance projects and enter into public-private partnerships to build and maintain new infrastructure.
The House already approved the bill, though without the P3 feature. The measure will now head back to the House before moving to Republican Gov. John Kasich for his signature.
Kasich, who pushed lawmakers to allow for transportation-related P3s, is expected to sign the measure.
On the borrowing side, the budget authorizes the state to issue $128.2 million of bonds through fiscal 2013.
It also authorizes the state to issue $45.5 million of grant anticipation revenue vehicle, or Garvee, bonds in 2012 and another $98 million of Garvees in 2013, according to a spokesman from the Ohio Department of Transportation.
The budget allows the state treasurer to issue up to $123 million of bonds on behalf of ODOT.
Senators also passed an amendment to the transportation bill that restores Clean Ohio bonds, a $400 million program originally authorized by voters in 2000 and renewed in 2008.
If signed by Kasich, the new transportation budget would allow ODOT to enter into a P3 for any transportation project at any stage, from development to operation.
It would allow ODOT to impose tolls and distribute a piece of future toll revenue to a private partner. Toll revenue could only be used for that project.
“We have no choice but to engage in public-private partnerships and give ODOT the authority to executive tolling rights on major new construction,” said Sen. Capri Cafaro, D-Hubbard.
“We have very limited funds. We will not be able to meet the demands that our infrastructure calls for, particularly in the context of major new construction, if we don’t provide creative funding mechanisms to make up for a shortfall in our motor fuel-tax revenue.”
The proposal to expand tolling authority to ODOT has floated around the state for years, including under former Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat.
Ohio currently operates only one toll road, the 241-mile Ohio Turnpike that runs along the northern part of the state. The turnpike is operated by the Ohio Turnpike Commission.
Kasich is widely expected to unveil a plan to enter into a long-term lease of the turnpike to drum up cash for the state, though that was not part of his recent budget proposal.